Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 22

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 at Via Negativa or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack (where the posts might be truncated by some email providers).

This week, the summer travel season is underway, with blue domes, a country of murderers, the Essex muse, an economy based on beauty, and much more. Enjoy.

Where I walk, another walked. Where I stand, another stood. Where I look up at the sky, another looked, his quadrant mapping stars. Time flattens, crushing dimensions into smooth calligraphy. History calls my name and when I lean in, it whispers a question in my ear. Why are you here? Where you touch, another touched. Where you speak, another spoke. Who are you here?

blue domes lean against blue sky:
one more traveller
one more caravan

Rajani Radhakrishnan, One more caravan

Here’s another poem I wrote on my recent trip to Catalonya. It was another of those writing exercises I set myself. I sit in a square and make notes about my impressions of the place. This usually involves much people watching.

The quiet of the afternoon is broken
by an American who talks too loud
to people a continent away.

I attempt not to listen so focus on the view
it is of an impossibly beautiful blue bay
with the Pyrenees to the left some of which still have snow.

The signage informs me today is voting Sunday.
While his back was turned the square has filled with Germans
who busy themselves taking photographs.


I park the car. This Oakville hotel a curious way-station, surrounded by industrial patina, parkettes and highways. This crafting of thicket. Every tree in this landscape is transplanted, organized. Rows of saplings, arranged. The rear margins of box-store cluster opposite the hotel foyer and parking lot, one I was required to circumnavigate to access. I inquired at the front desk: Can I walk there from here? They responded with horror. The resulting walk, a depth of eight minutes. Unfathomable.

rob mclennan, There is a building in Mississauga the same colour as the sky

In the heat of the famine a girl sits on a step outside a ruined house
reciting what might be poetry.

A man limps from the wreckage of his home and small shop,
says Everything I had was here. Now I have nothing but God,
who sees everything.

I live in a country of murderers, in the company of murderers,
the glib and mealy-mouthed, the mad
who condone and justify atrocity after atrocity,
who see mutilated babies, beheaded babies
and cheer as a politician scrawls Finish Them on the next missiles
to be fired at tents in a refugee camp.

I live among those who would send their children to war and call it peace.


This week I watched my son graduate from fifth grade, and took some long walks with my daughter (the talks we have on walks are always the best). And this week—this beautiful, terrible week—I’ve been thinking so much about Toi Derricotte’s words: “Joy is an act of resistance.” Joy is essential.

Maggie Smith, The Good Stuff

The horses were only horses’
heads, so I could not bridle

them or take them for a canter.
Slender king, dangerous queen,

walking the edges of a checkered
field beyond which forests

breathed, and the patient
tongues of the sea waited.

Luisa A. Igloria, Dominion

Last night I watched small children lurching around the picnic area pretending to be zombies.  The smallest one came over to me, looked directly into my eyes, and said, “Be a zombie.”

I am of an age where I don’t get these kinds of invitations/directives often.  And so I rose from my camp chair and played at being a zombie.  By the end of the evening, most of us, all ages, had taken a turn at this game.  I talked to the child’s mom about how kids these days are learning about zombies, and now I have a Disney creation to look up.  I didn’t realize that Disney had travelled to the land of the undead.

I am traveling through the land, rejoicing that we are not yet dead, that there are still kind front desk managers who share their coffee with early morning writers, that there are still children who will spend hours playing make believe, that the land offers up so much beauty, as does life itself, if we look away from our screens and 24 hour news feeds and the other ways we allow our joy to be killed.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Don’t Be a Zombie: Celebrate Love

In wild places, some part of me that’s not domestic surfaces. I experience a rise in my level of awareness regarding my surroundings, an apprehension in the etymological sense of “a seizing upon, laying hold of; understanding” (Etymology Online). In canyons, caverns, riverbeds, forests—yes, in the desert, too—I respond wholly differently from the way I encounter unfamiliar human-made spaces. While at Joya-AiR, I encountered both: new environments that I’m integrating into my inner ecology. New forms of art. That process of integration, an exciting one, will continue long after my residency here has ended.

It has been such a pleasure to interact with artists whose mediums vary from my own. I was the only poet in this group, and the opportunities I’ve had to learn more about the visual arts have been amazing and useful. My first loves were sketching and painting, and although my longtime practice has been writing, imagery has ever been vital to my creative work. I thank them for their generosity of spirit. What artists can offer to one another is an aspect of themselves through their perspectives as well as their mediums and works. This kind of giving and exchange strikes me as quite personal and enriching. It is something we can do for the world, too.

Ann E. Michael, Jewel

Whenever I pause and am truly still
I can feel the gold threading my veins.
Above me, the boughs shift and creak
like an old ship, and all the branches
ride the air at different speeds.

Rachel Dacus, Memorial Day Poem

I was fortunate this past week to be able to continue to develop my poetry reading experience. Kath and I took a lovely trip to The Poetry Pharmacy in Bishops Castle, and I joined the open mic at Verbatim. Josephine Lay was reading there and it felt good to make the journey and be in the audience. We got to talk before the event and she read some of my favourite poems in her set. I love that feeling of anticipation to see what the poet will read, and I was also delighted that she included one of my poems in the set. That was very special.

Sue Finch, Is He Puffin or Is He Vulture?

The hollow of the darkness.
The hollow of the rumbling
of air pushed through dusty ducts.
Arms that compete with long legs
for the title “Most Useless.”
The unsigned certificate
sighs, rumpled, and relaxes.

PF Anderson, Postcard Poem 34

These stylish Little Black Books arrived in the post today as my contributor copies from the Hedgehog Poetry Press

Participating poets were invited to write an imaginary gallery label for an imaginary artwork. 

Each of the eleven selected entries is accompanied by a few details pertaining to size of work, type of media etc. I don’t want to give too much away, but my poem has something to do with a wild creature in the woods – or does it?

Caroline Gill, Little Black Book: Exhibition Cards for Imaginary Paintings

Just recently, one of my ludokinetic poems, ‘L and the Empress of Sand’, was shortlisted for the New Media Writing Prize. The winner, Florence Walker’s ‘I Dreamt of Something Lost’, is a ghost story told through the medium of a simulated chat programme on a PC desktop — it’s incredible well realised. ‘L …’ was the only poem on the shortlist, however, which is both a compliment and, I think, a sign that poetry still struggles to assert itself as an interactive form (though Charlotte Geater’s ‘Head Girl’ made the longlist). More broadly, you could say that poetry will always struggle when up against fiction in contests, among other reasons because it’s harder to break down, to summarise, and therefore tougher for a panel of judges to discuss critically.

The judges said of ‘L …’, simply:

A truly great work with an interesting format and mechanics.

I would say it’s a poem about the effort we have to put in to win back even a sliver of self-determination from those who rule over us.

Jon Stone, “My skeleton a scree of spoons and saucers”

I learned a lot about podcasting this week as I was interviewed (can’t tell you which or why yet, it’s a secret, but I’ll tell you when it is supposed to be on) and got to chat with two of the podcast’s producers. For instance, did you know, for a fairly successful arts podcast, at least ten people work on it to get every episode, besides the person you hear talking? It takes a lot of work to make those things work.

I also thought about how podcasting poetry has maybe replaced what we used to think of as radio show poetry, like The Writer’s Almanac—now we might listen to The Slowdown or The Commonplace or podcasts of friends or the Poetry Foundation. There’s so much out there, and such a lot of voices, in some ways it’s overwhelming, but it also gives the feeling of a bigger, more inclusive community of poets.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, On a Good Day, Podcast News, Presidential Felonies, Peonies, and Chocolates

Maybe my favorite creative project of the sabbatical brings together these two parts–my writer self and my artist self. Since I started painting a few years ago, many people have asked me about the connection between my writing and my visual art. I don’t have answers that totally satisfy me yet, and I know there are others like me out there who began with a pen and then picked up something else. What can I learn from their answers? Or their journeys? To this end, I have begun recording interviews for a new podcast called My Other Pen: Conversations with Writers Who Have a Second Artistic Practice. The response I got to this was overwhelming and I will be busy all summer with interviews and plan to launch in the fall. Follow along! https://myotherpen.substack.com/

I’ve always wanted to learn podcasting, so I’m just jumping into the deep end here. Excited to see where it goes and find applications I can bring into my teaching.

Sheila Squillante, On Sabbatical

With yesterday’s announcement of John Burnside’s death, I thought of this review that I wrote in 2006 of his Selected Poems, published by Cape Poetry. His work meant a lot to me around that time and I enjoyed the chance to try to articulate what I found fascinating in it.

John Burnside’s poetry has, for some years now, been offering us a modern egotistical sublime. With Wordsworth, he shares a responsive delight in nature and daunting powers of self-analysis; also similarly, he can slip towards the prolix and portentous and there is something of the same difficulty with projection into another’s experience. But Burnside’s work frequently achieves a moving sublimity without loosening its grip on reality. He is the only contemporary poet who consistently demonstrates the power of a poetic form that is something other than mini fictional narrative, raw confessional, or condensed dramatic monologue. That he is also successful in writing prose makes his achievement all the more impressive.

Martyn Crucefix, Remembering John Burnside

What was this magic trick performed by means of line length and enjambment, this seemingly effortless mastery of white space? Who knew a living poet could write so rhythmically and fluidly? There was pain in the poem too, a shadow, barely there, but powerfully present. And a sense of redemption in those words that I would come to recognise as central to Burnside’s concerns- ‘grace and attunement’.

Roy Marshall, John Burnside

Although it is always a pleasure to read poems by Vashon Island poet Sandra Noel, this book felt very different from the two I have previously reviewed, Hawk Land (2022) and The Gypsy in My Kitchen  (2015). Dedicated to her husband, who died in 2022, What the Pain Left is painted from a different palette. Though crafted with Noel’s eye for detail, her heart for nature, here the “commotion / of silver-scaled abundance / falling from nets” in “Love and Marriage,” feels doomed from the start. In “We Speak About Death Over Burgers and Fries,” I was amazed at Noel’s poise in navigating the trajectory of this book, encompassing a 40-year history: courtship to death and out the other side, alone.

I will catch you
or we will fall together
maybe there is another level
in this warren
a way out of the labyrinth.

end lines from “Down the Rabbit Hole”

Of course there is no other way out of life, and perhaps that’s why the poems are often spare, more spare than I’ve noticed in Noel’s previous books. They are tender with feeling, and accessible; for the most part, Noel omits punctuation, placing together lines about a heron abruptly with “tragedies / float noisily by” (“In the Shadows”). Unexpected capital letters intrude, and exclamation marks. All of which seem to be insisting on making sense of what feels senseless, an illness, ineffectual treatment, and untimely death.

Bethany Reid, Sandra Noel, WHAT THE PAIN LEFT

This is a book of children’s fairytale palindrome poems. I squealed when my children brought me this at the used bookstore. Yes, like a joyful pig! A ‘“palindrome” poem reads the same backward as it does forwards (Singer calls these “Reverso” poems, which works too). Most of the poems had one perspective (Snow White, for example), and on the other side of the page, a different perspective (the Evil Queen) and the poem reversed. Not all poems worked 100%, BUT I thought this book was ambitious and fun. Best of all, it inspired me and my kids to write our own palindrome poems. I squealed again when I discovered she has a Greek Mythology one.

Renee Emerson, Poetry for Children, Return of the Classics, and Deep Work

There’s some terrific poetry being written these days around the motif of ghosts. Anna Saunders’ Ghosting for Beginners (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2018) is an excellent case in point, as are Rebecca Farmer’s two pamphlets, Not Really (Smith-Doorstop, 2014) and A Separate Appointment (New Walk Editions, 2022).

The latter poet is especially interesting as a point of comparison and contrast with the subject of today’s review, Lucy Dixcart and her first full collection, Company of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2024). In both poets’ writing, ghosts interact with the living, though the ghosts in Rebecca Farmer’s poetry are primarily lost loved ones, which is understandable given she is from an older generation. 

In Lucy Dixcart’s case, meanwhile, her ghosts tend not to be sourced from the dead. Instead, they represent the hypothetical selves that could have existed if different life choices had been made, or they act out the role of former selves, all seen from someone who’s approaching the mid-point of life, looking back on youth and wondering what might have been.

Matthew Stewart, The evolving nature of the self, Lucy Dixcart’s Company of Ghosts

I’m composing this post on a word processor from the early 2000s, an Alphasmart Neo I purchased from eBay and painted green. I purchased it because a little subculture of users rave about it as a distraction-free writing tool, and I thought it could be useful for a new book project I’m embarking on. I’ve only had it for maybe three months, and it’s slowly become an integral part of my drafting process. […]

The devices aren’t the point though. The reason I spend time and energy experimenting with less-networked gear is a prioritization of presence. A feeling of being in the world, in the moment, without the constant tug of elsewhere. Time expanding out into minutes of nothingness, of boredom, even, without something to immediately fill it. Time not as a commodity, but a body of water one can swim in, even if only for the 20 minutes I sit in the waiting room before the nurse calls me back for my appointment. 

I want to experience my life as I live it, yes, and give my brain and heart room to spread out, to doze and dream. And, I confess, I want the people around me—my loved ones—to look back when I look at them. To swim with me in that water. Not to look around in that hunted way, holding their phones in their laps like talismans. 

Poets have always cultivated attention, presence, as a sacred practice. And maybe people who are inclined to revere presence have a higher likelihood of becoming poets. “Attention is the beginning of devotion,” says Mary Oliver. Linda Gregg talks about “the art of marrying the sacred to the world, the invisible to the human.” And Anne Carson recently commented, in an interview with the Paris Review: “What I am sure of is that we seek out ways to make time stop. That only happens in moments of total attention, which is why we pursue them.” 

Sarah Rose Nordgren, Dancing with Technology

I did finally decide on the zine project coming your way in June–my strange little series of poems about humans and technology, technogrotesque with its accompanying collages, which I will be laying out this week. I’m in the midst of final corrections on a bunch of chaps that will be dropping as well, as well as more responses, more straggling layouts, and sorting the 2024 submissions, which have started trickling in today for the open reading period. (I likely won’t get to these til late in the summer, but they are there and ready to start.) Meanwhile I am still dealing with which books will make the final line up for this fall. 

Kristy Bowen, notes & things | 6/2/2024

What poems can do/be: put words together in surprising ways that make you reconsider them and what they stand for, intersperse sound and silence such that you can hear both differently, use rhythms of sounds and silences to surprise you into notice, tilt the world so you see something anew, create a space of possibilities, layer experiences of the senses to suggest new perceptions, highlight overlooked details through which to understand something differently you thought you already understood, throw spotlight on a large scape such that you can see it afresh, show the landscape of life in your own palm, through a grain of sand offer the world. And other stuff.

Unfortunately I’ve been reading a bunch of poetry of late that does not do much of that. Simplistic, tin-eared, so solipsistic as to be impenetrable or too easily penetrated, determinedly abstruse, preachy, drearily earnest prose chopped up for no apparent reason. It’s just a bad patch, but you know how bad patches feel like they’re never going to end. After spates of reads like this I become convinced I don’t understand the art at all, and become profoundly discouraged. I’ve somehow gotten terribly lost, and only just now realized I’ve gone miles off track in some spare and bare-limbed forest.

So it was with relief, re-leaf, when I came to this poem by Deborah Digges. It may not reach you, as it reached me. You may come to the end thinking, “Um…ok.” (Just as all those poems I’ve recently trudged through may have interested, even fascinated you, or at least not made you doubt everything you thought you understood about poetry.) But maybe you too will find something in its meandering, in its moments.

Marilyn McCabe, Fear needs its metaphors

The month started with Paula Jennings’ poetry collection, This is you Dear Stranger, published by Red Squirrel Press. It’s an astonishing book, not only because it was published while both poet and publisher were seriously ill, but because it moves beyond anything I expected from Paul Jennings, whose pamphlet, Under a Spell Place, exploring the experience of dementia, I have loved for a long time. These are strange, daring, tactile poems dealing with the female experience of nature, bodilyness, aging, death and memory. I gobbled this book – it was a delight.

Windswept by Annie Worsley, published by William Collins. Annie Worsley has written a blog called Red River Croft for several years, and this book is a synthesis of all she has observed and learned in that time. She writes about migrating birds, the return of many wild flower species to the croft under their benign management, but most of all the impact of wind and sea on the experience of living in the landscape of the north east of Scotland.

Elizabeth Rimmer, May Reading

I am the favored child of the dead physician’s
disrespectful son who married beneath him
who put his hands into the mouth of the Lord
and pulled them out again glazed
as evangelical as touched as Lazarus

I am the unexpected bleeding
stepping off the stagecoach unannounced
in tight shoes and a christening dress

I am the melodrama dripping
in the entrance hall

I am the pigeon come home to roost
the statement the penny edition the very well

Ren Powell, Two Poems from An Elastic State of Mind

Who buys Flash books? At least with anthologies the contributors might be buyers, but how many of those people will buy single-author books? Who are the trusted publishers?

Reader expectations are maturing now that people are no longer buying only books written by friends. How good should a book be before it’s publishable? I think the bar is rising. Should it have sections, like many poetry books have? Will readers accept a mix of prose-poems, dribbles and narrative Flash all in the same book? Are Flash pamphlets viable?

Tim Love, Flash collections

Consider this. Website says SUBS CLOSED, followed by a long description of what to send and ‘OPEN until [date]’.  Or, SUBS OPEN, followed by a long description of what to send and then SUBS CLOSED. Sometimes it looks open, but when you click onto their Submittable page, or webform, it says they are closed. The social account says CLOSED in the profile, OPEN in the feed.

So I don my detective hat. Are they open for flash but not poetry? Are they open for their annual competition, but not for general subs? Are they open for subs in the Scottish language only? Were they open for 24 hours only, and they haven’t had time to update their Submittable? Have they reached their Submittable limit for that month? Has someone tasked with updating the socials not been able to update the website, or didn’t realise the Profile needed updating or couldn’t figure out how to UNPIN a post? Did someone not SCROLL DOWN? (These are all real examples.)

Robin Houghton, Keeping track of poetry magazines: getting down and dirty

We think of Denise Levertov as an American poet. She moved to the United States in 1947, became an American citizen in 1955 and is associated with the Black Mountain Poets, with Charles Olsen and William Carlos Williams. She was a close friend of Robert Duncan, too, and in fact it was, I think, via an essay by Thom Gunn on Duncan that I first encountered her work. Her poetry of the 60s and 70s, especially, was politically committed, championing civil rights in America and opposing the Vietnam war. But (like me) she came originally from Essex: she was born and grew up in Ilford, an area that is now subsumed rather unglamorously into the eastern part of greater London, but was once upon a time countryside, full of hunting estates. […]

In the sixteenth-century all this land was countryside, dotted with large estates. I’ve written before about Adrian Schoell, a German Protestant immigrant and jobbing Latin poet struggling to keep his head above water in the somewhat hostile environment of Marian London in the 1550s, and recording his experiences — including, very unusually, life as a servant — in eloquent Latin verse. In 1560, things started to improve for Schoell because, after what seem to have been several false starts elsewhere, he found a lasting patron: Lord John Gray, of Pirgo in what is now Romford. In the poem quoted above, Levertov calls the site of this estate, the house of which has long since disappeared, Pergo Park (though the official spelling these days seems to be Pyrgo); from the summer of 1560 onwards Schoell dates an increasingly large number of his poems from Pirgo […]

Victoria Moul, The Essex Muse: Denise Levertov and Adrian Schoell

Elvire Roberts explores queerness in all its senses, strange, unwell, odd, Queer. The poems’ creatures find ways of thriving rather than just surviving. They play, explore, dream and surprise. Her language moves across the page, sometimes hesitantly, sometimes playfully, suggestive of a resistance to doing what’s expected, marveling in a capacity to surprise. But this movement also underlines the flatness of capturing words on a page. It brings to mind how words dance when BSL is used. “North by Northnorth” is an ambitious, fluid debut built on a dense body.

Emma Lee, “North by Northnorth” Elvire Roberts (Five Leaves Publications) – book review

i have tried to swallow
as much dark as my body will hold.
spoons & kings. the basement smell
of mold & decaying halos.
walking down there with
a single candle. little planet.

Robin Gow, electronic universe

Peace is possible then: not easy, but possible. Yet so many of the poems convey its fragility. There is a constant expression of insecurity about the future. In one of my favourite poems in the collection, The curse, the narrator in the poem reflects upon a sculptor’s intentions when he made the war memorial he is looking at. Was it about remembering the sacrifice the troops had made? Was it to offer a model of service? Was it to give us some sense of the soldier’s experience? He then puts himself in the place of the sculpture and asks it what it would like to say. He imagines its reply: “‘cast in bronze, I’m cursed: I have no tongue;/ I don’t know you: I never knew this town;/ I see, but can’t reveal, what’s still to come.”’ The fact that the poem is called The Curse, the word bearing associations of evil, seems to imply a dark future, but even if this is not the poet’s intention, there is still the sense of knowing and not knowing. Those who pass by are ignorant of what the future holds for them. This is an idea raised again, in Tapestry, one of the poems towards the end of the collection. Vernon describes the story it recounts, which is one of a cyclical conflict over the possession of a crown. The poem ends with the victory of a new king and the lines: ‘The tapestry is torn/ the ending can’t be found.’ We are left wondering, whether the conflict will start again or if this is the start of a new era of peace. We do not know, and that’s the point.

In Guerrilla Country we find a poet writing with impressive knowledge and authority about his subject. The accounts of conflicts are authentic, compelling and totally engaging because Vernon is an experienced poet, comfortable with the tools of his trade. This must be one of the most important collections of the year, one that ought to be read by every politician running for office at the current time.

Nigel Kent, Review of ‘Guerrilla Country’ by Phil Vernon

One morning last week as I was seeing Cane off to work, I realized that our peonies were on the cusp of blooming, and I ran back inside to get my phone so I could take a photo of it. Why did I feel so compelled? I mean, who needs another photo of a peony about to bloom, seemingly everyone’s favorite flower to share on Instagram this time of year? What was important enough about this particular flower that it could get me to run at 7:03 in the morning? In my slippers and pajamas, no less?

I didn’t really know, until I found myself reading 26th Avenue Poet (Elizabeth)’s re-introduction to her poetry newsletter (along with a poem I really liked) and decided to try her approach to writing poetry, which is refreshingly simple:

Here’s what happened: this is what I saw, heard, smelt, experienced, and when it happened I … laughed? Frowned? Felt heartache? Felt something. Remembered the moment and the feeling, wrote it down as vividly as I could so that you could experience it too.

This way into a poem reminded me of my very first experience with writing poetry, in Mrs. Marchbank’s 8th grade creative writing class. She had us bring in a photo we liked, and then assigned us to write three description-packed sentences about the photo. The sentences were to be focused on concrete details, not abstract ideas. I’d forgotten that the way into a poem could be so easy. Perhaps should be so easy.

Rita Ott Ramstad, The way of desire

the moon
inside so many poems
ringing bells

Jim Young [no title]

What was it like for Martha, the endling of her species, to die alone at the Cincinnati Zoo that late-summer day in 1914, all the other passenger pigeons gone from the face of the Earth, having once filled its skies with an immensity of beating wings, so many that John James Audubon likened their migration to an eclipse? And what made the difference between the people who killed them with glee — like the man in Austin who bragged about slaying 475 birds with a single stick — and those who reverenced their beauty, their majesty, their symphonic expression of life itself? A mere generation before Martha was born in captivity, Margaret Fuller had exulted:

Every afternoon [the pigeons] came sweeping across the lawn, positively in clouds, and with a swiftness and softness of winged motion, more beautiful than anything of the kind I ever knew. Had I been a musician, such as Mendelssohn, I felt that I could have improvised a music quite peculiar, from the sound they made, which should have indicated all the beauty over which their wings bore them.

They were emissaries of the sublime, migrating by the millions, appearing like an immense blue wave rolling toward you, sounding like thunder — an experience we shall never know first-hand.

Maria Popova, Thunder, Bells, and Silence: The Eclipse that Went Extinct

Costa Rica puts a lot of cultural emphasis on its farmers. Go to Sarchi, outside of San Jose, and you see a city of artists that glorify the plough wheel and the ox cart. Go to a coffee shop in Coco and you hear the barista telling tourists where he gets his coffee beans from, explaining why this is the best region for growing them, and telling curious foreigners how the country is restoring the soil, making sure their farming practices are sustainable, and paying their workers equitably. Look at the money Costa Rica uses. On one side you see pictures of politicians, but on the other side you find images of sloths, sharks, monkeys and, my favorite, the Blue Morpho butterfly!

Even though the beauty of the natural world surrounds Costa Ricans every day, they, generally speaking, don’t take it for granted. When I see a flock of Macaws landing in my tropical almond tree, locals will look up to observe them as readily as I do. Parents with young children pause on their walk home to point at the birds saying, “Mira, los guacamayos,” which is Spanish for “Look, the macaws!” They are still full of wonder, even though they see macaws in their own backyards or walking to the grocery store all the time.

Tresha Faye Haefner, How do You Build an Economy Based on Beauty?

So as we live like artists, what is our vision? How do we create the conditions that allow for such expansive work? How do we keep from being depleted, and to remain in our zones of interest?

There is an alchemy to creating great art — Bogart reminds us that James Joyce said that there is a “secret cause” at the “heart of a great artwork” by which “the perceiver arrives in the proximity.” We are talking about Luigi Galvan’i’s “enchantment of the heart,” also an idea Joyce talked about.

When we are transformed by making our art, then that is when others are transformed in reading or listening or looking. They are experiencing: their hearts may become enchanted. Our vision comes out of process, a deep and abiding relationship with our materials, whether they are words or paint or song, etc.

Shawna Lemay, Live Like an Artist – Vision and Process

My beloved wife and me are not long back from a trip out this morning to The Garden Museum to see the Gardening Bohemia: Bloomsbury Women Outdoors exhibition. It was pretty fascinating, albeit quite a small exhibition. I noted some interesting things about the likes of Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, and Via Sackville-West. I enjoyed this on one of the boards explaining some of the photos and paintings on display.

“Some visitors to Garsington satirised their host and the atmosphere of social and sexual freedom she cultivated, while enjoying her hospitality. Virginia Woolf commented after a visit, ‘is the sunlight ever normal at Garsington? No, I think even the sky is done up in pale yellow silk, and certainly the cabbages are scented.”

I was immediately thinking of a poem I could write about the exhibition, off the back of that quote, or even just the note about “pale yellow silk”, and while it may happen eventually, I just can’t shake the feeling that why would I have anything viable to say on this…what can I offer about those relationships, those events, that world?

Mat Riches, Scented Cabbages

Later in my life, as a writer myself, I drifted back to this girl buried in sight of the sea, and found myself digging in to her accomplishments. I began to study Agnes Grey (I’ve now just finished my third reading) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and found a writer who was funny, genuinely so, intelligent, morally strong and unafraid to push back against a society who had a plan for women like the Brontës.

She had not just died in Scarborough, but had lived there for periods of her life, visiting as a governess to the Robinsons, walking here, exploring here, finding herself here, writing here.

These days there are always pens, pencils, flowers, stones, shells left on her grave. I wrote a poem for Michael Stewart’s Walking the Invisible book, which refers to them as ‘treadle footed tourists’ because there is a constant stream, a constant movement towards Anne’s grave. Rightly so. People want that connection. And yet I’m always amazed by the lack of attention she gets by the town itself, a literary figure so beloved and yet not deemed important enough to have a statue or anything more than a blue plaque on The Grand Hotel, a hotel built on the site of Woods Lodgings, where she took her last breath.

Scarborough, like all British seaside towns, has a complex history. It is a melting pot of poverty and affluence. Somehow the heritage stories of the town don’t seem to get the same recognition as the instant gratification of tourist centred projects. But this too, she too, draws tourists.

Wendy Pratt, Notes from a Script in Hand Reading

this desire to just be
with all these poems
swept away again and again
by the bigger poem of my life

Tom Clausen, tangled

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