Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 24

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: a floating typewriter, a poet in a lighthouse, bombing the moon, marble peaches, the hum of our own truth, and more. Enjoy.

The Fernando Pessoa House in Lisbon has recently been voted the best museum in Europe. I understand why. As I entered the exhibition space, I heard the familiar sound of typewriter keys and at the same time, saw Pessoa’s red typewriter floating in space. There are recordings of Pessoa’s poems in Portuguese and in English as well as his letters to his one known girlfriend.

“To read is to dream, guided by someone else’s hand.”

Susan Rich, Happy Birthday Today (June 12th) to Portuguese Poet, Fernando Pessoa

shady lake
the clattering cry
of the kingfisher

Bill Waters, Hopewell Valley Neighbors magazine: June ’24

Summer always feels like it should be a time for writing things. When I was a freshman in college, freshly sprung from my semester at the community college and starting RC in the fall, I spent those days poring over issues of Writer’s Digest checked out from the library. Typing my way though drafts of slender, terrible poems on paper thin typing paper rattled with correction fluid. Every afternoon would find me waiting til after lunch, when the mail delivery crept past, to run, usually shoeless and cutting though the grassy field, down to the boxes at the end of the driveway waiting for those thin or thick envelopes back in the day when many publications still returned your drafts to you with a polite no. […]

Another summer, 2005, I spent ripping my first book down to the bare bones after a two years of submitting a couple different versions of it here and there to contests. That summer found me often escaping the heat and distraction at home in the air conditioned interior of a Barnes & Noble cafe downtown, going poem by poem, page by page, and reconstructing the house. Other summertime projects over the years like the exquisite damage poems and overlook. Two summers ago when I took a deep dive into the Persephone series that makes up my latest book. Or the summer I spent a portion of wandering around the Field Museum, writing extinction event. 

There is always a renewed seriousness in the fall, with big projects and plans, but summer always feels like stolen time, particularly when I was entrenched in an academic calendar, which meant a lighter load of obligatory work June-August, and even still now. This morning I wrapped up the final piece in the series I was working on and am set to move onto something else, which I may choose tomorrow morning when I sit down to draft the first piece, there being a list of potential directions and paths. One of which I will just choose and start off into the woods. 

Kristy Bowen, summertime poeting

The Torah of knobby roots
protruding from sandy earth.
The Torah of watch your step
in every language at once.
The Torah of Duolingo lessons
teaching me to praise God
for Duolingo lessons.
The Torah of my heart,
a fragile paper balloon
buoyed by candlelight.

Rachel Barenblat, A barukh she’amar for Shavuot morning

As the church bells began ringing, we were off – like thoroughbreds out of the starting boxes. We’d arrived on Saturday, inspected the spacious and comfortable rental property. Then enjoyed a delicious fish dinner at No. 1 Cromer Upstairs. […]

Curved around Cromer Pier a twitching mass of legs,
sturdy calves, socks, sandals. Fathers scoop up bait,
wind black thread onto pink plastic spools.
An old couple, in matching anoraks,
watch a thin man, wheelchair-bound.
He shakily lifts his thermos flask.

Fokkina McDonnell, Cromer, June

the sparrow fledglings
a sea breeze
privet flowers opening
hawk moths in the trees

Jim Young, june into july

A restless, rustling north wind pins us down all afternoon.
Weakening light as a squally rain sweeps in off the sea.
A blue and white boat meets the swell head-on.
No one on deck. Its lights glow. In our cliff-top room just
the sound of the wind and you turning pages in your book,
me writing this, looking out into mist and cloud three hundred
feet above waves crashing on black rocks on a day where
a small fishing boat moving slowly north is an event.
This is all we need. The peace between us, as it is.


I’ve been devouring stacked piles of books, especially poetry, with a high quotient of Caledonian work in the mix, because I’m off to SCOTLAND tonight! Two of the most striking books, though widely different, are both hybrid in form. On the US side, Gregory Pardlo’s new collection Spectral Evidence: the subtitle may be “poems” but many pieces are essayistic, idea-driven and bibliographied, and one of the most powerful is a short play, complete with dramatis personae and stage directions, about a vengeful white neighbor calling Child Protective Services on someone named “Greg” and his family. The book is essentially critical of supernaturalizing. “Black men and white women are similarly pressed into service as both muse and monster,” Pardlo writes in a prose preface to Spectral Evidence; the ghost “haunting the mind of Western patriarchy… omnipresent but rarely named, is Black women.”

An Orkney Tapestry, a 1969 book by Scottish poet George Mackay Brown, celebrates hauntedness. Trows (something like trolls or elves, I’ll clarify that for you if I meet one) enchant fiddlers. Saints intercede in ordinary Orkney lives. In short, he’s celebrating mixed forces of weirdness, and in fact critiques early on the popular myth that these far northern Scottish islands are “pure Viking,” which to him has a whiff of eugenics. I love his strange blending of original poetry, translated poetry, prose history, and playlets. Yet women–and Black sailors, in a fleeting historical episode–are definitely monsters and muses to Brown, and it sometimes drove me bananas. No one labors on the holy days, yet special cakes appear on breakfast table: magic, it turns out, depends on women’s drudge-work.

I speak, of course, as the trip-planner who spent days researching and plotting a complex route, and making all the reservations for this family of four. At least my husband will perform the magic of driving a manual on the wrong side of narrow Scottish roads.

Lesley Wheeler, Spiral aboveground, mycelium beneath

We take a ferry to an isle that’s stocked with whelk
and wild horses, grateful for a vast expanse
of shoreline, water celadon and crystal clear and warm.
We sift among the bountiful array of shells
but never catch perfection’s glimpse, just weather-worn
and gnarly specimens like us, a shadow of
their younger selves: catch and release, release and catch.

Leslie Fuquinay Miller, Welcome

If you risk your life by sailing to Greece, and get caught in a storm, are you the agent or the victim of events? Why does innovation and ambition always also cause unforeseen suffering? And if you find yourself caught in a tempest of political upheaval, fraught with the essential wrongness of a people set against themselves, how should one act or allow oneself to be acted upon? (Not an entirely irrelevant question this week, in France.)

All readers, I think, agree that political crisis is part of the backdrop of the whole of Odes 1, and that something great is in play in its third poem. The Aeneid is, for sure, a great poem, one of the very greatest, and Virgil’s enormous talent and literary daring are surely relevant to the poem. But all the same I feel that if we make this a poem about the Aeneid, we risk losing sight of the ethical and religious questions that Horace himself places at its heart. Most people don’t need to decide what they think about the politics or the sublimity (or otherwise) of the Aeneid. But everyone (even President Macron) has to grapple with the fallibility and the unintended consequences of human action.

Victoria Moul, Veer o veer ho! Horace and the poetry of political crisis

When the moon was bombed, it broke open like a water balloon, wet silver running down the hills of debris, carrying with it a giant rabbit, its head split open, feet lost in a tangle of concrete and moon-spill. Something: a shadow, a crater, a crater in the face of a shadow – was screaming, its mouth wide, soundless.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Fading to dark

Danielle Jones’s “Baptized” chooses a more narrative route, a very short story almost, where the narrator shows both a brief action and the inner flight of thought that accompanied it. Here are words I think do the heavy lifting in the poem: mercy, stone, hook, drowning. I love how the poem turns on this well-worn phrase “put it out of its misery.” I love how the image of a “storm of fish, bubbles rising from their mouths” flashes a sense of that drowning, even though, of course, fish are just doing what they do. Why does that image make rise in me a bit of panic? Then that hook between the shoulder blades, that drowning in the blood.

Leila Chatti’s “Mary Speaks” is a poem of a moment, that famous moment when young Mary is chosen for her brutal task. Its images call up too the Greek tale of Leda and the swan, the seducation, or was it rape?, of the queen of Sparta. The Bible does not give much of the inner life of Mary, so poets, perhaps, the imaginations of every era are left to fill it in. Here a bit of rue, at least, maybe resentment, regret.

I appreciate these poems for the deft way they make the best of poetry’s tools — image, word, line break — to create a world and a moment that overflows with experience. All this from a handful of text on a page. Small packages to address issues of faith and doubt, trust and its betrayal, what life asks of us and how, in heaven’s name, how on earth, do we respond.

Marilyn McCabe, no one. Perhaps I’d have been

When people ask, “When did you start writing poems?” I have a clear answer: age thirteen. But if someone asked, “When did you feel like you could claim the identify of poet?” my answer would not be so clear. Honestly? More than twenty-five years after writing my first poem.

What does it mean—what does it take—to be a writer? To be able to claim that identity?

“I’ll feel like a poet when I start to publish poems in journals.”

“I’ll feel like a writer when my first book comes out.”

“I’ll feel like a writer when I make enough money from my writing to pay my bills.”

You think “If I get X” or “If Y happens” then you’ll finally feel like a real writer. There’s a hint of the Pinocchio tale here. That’s imposter syndrome at work, and it leaves a kind of stain that’s hard to scrub out. You might think it would vanish when you publish a book, win a prize, or read a generous review of your work. You’d be wrong. It’s something that many writers and artists live with—the fear that we aren’t that talented after all, or that any success we’ve had has a been a fluke and will end at any moment. What if that last poem was, indeed, your last poem?

That voice is one we must work to quiet. The best way I’ve found to quiet it? Keep writing. Prove it wrong.

Maggie Smith, Pep Talk

This week my planner greeted me with this phrase

If we can unplug from the voices of others we will begin to hear the hum of our own truth –

Cedrice Webber

My planner does not know that I’ve had several weeks of intense mental crisis, culminating in me finally seeking the help I’ve needed for the past few years. I’ve had the necessary referrals but diagnosis and treatment are a long way off of course. Nonetheless this is an important first step and is a reason that nugget of planner wisdom seems so apposite.

The hum of others’ voices. The voices that tell me I’m not as good as them, the voices that mean I’m grateful to be asked to do anything remotely related to writing, the voices that mean I shy away from submitting my best work just in case I’m right and I am actually a terrible, useless writer. Quite a hum to handle.

Kathryn Anna Marshall, Creative Tuesday a day of trying to understand how me and my work can thrive

By the time you read this newsletter I’ll be in a recording booth recording the audio book version of my memoir, The Ghost Lake. I am so nervous about it that my teeth are tingling. I keep imagining scenarios in which I mispronounce a word, or somehow read my own book wrong, or someone rolls their eyes at me because I’ve had the audacity to not only be up my own arse enough to write a book but now, look at her, bloody reading it as an audio book, like a making herself out to be a proper writer. Who does she think she is? This is clearly imposter syndrome. I think to myself. And tomorrow, or right now (because I am Wendy from the far distant past of Wednesday afternoon) I have gotten into my car, driven to the studio and am settling myself down, trying not to rush, and trying not to wipe away my accent. I am sitting there allowing myself to read the book that I wrote in my own accent, in my own style, with no apologies. I hope.

It is so easy to dismiss your own voice as not valid, or your background or your accent or your style as too different or not good enough, isn’t it. Particularly true of women I think. Or at least, this has been my experience of working with women, often working class women, often older women. My style of workshops and facilitated groups welcome more women than men. It’s not deliberate, I love having men in my groups, but I made the decision to go with my gut more when facilitating and teaching and start leaning in to what I feel is core to my own work. I work around really quite difficult levels of anxiety (of which imposter syndrome is a big part) and I realised recently that some of the work I do is not helping that. Part of me feels that i should simply push through this. But in the past, if I knew I had a class to teach on a Friday, I would be almost catatonic with anxiety, unable to think because I could see it grinding towards me. The irony is, I love teaching. I love working with people. after I’d taught a class I’d be on a high. But how much of that was relief?

What writing The Ghost Lake has taught me is that my approach to my own writing is instinctive, even my editing style is instinctive. It’s something I have developed over years and years of writing and editing, and interacting with poets and authors and reading, reading, always reading. But it is still quite instinctive. There is nothing wrong with that. That’s the bit I’ve been missing, the validation of my own voice and my own style as valid, valuable even, because it is something I do instinctively, not despite that.

Wendy Pratt, The Dawn Chorus Zoom Writing Group Returns

I’ve been feeling disappointed and disillusioned with PoetryWorld in general. I haven’t been writing or submitting much. It feels like a stacked deck that after 30 years I’ve never truly cracked. My last book, Flare, Corona, which I had high hopes for (and hired a publicist for), just didn’t get much in the way of attention, reviews, prizes – and this after 25 years of doing poetry book reviews for others, which makes me feel a little…bitter? […]  There have been scandals in the lit mag world, closings of MFA programs and journals, and people on social media lamenting this way and that, plus rage and accusation at different literary organizations for various sins that I don’t even know much about. It seems like a toxic stew out there of anger, grief, disappointment. And that’s just the poetry world—I’ve turned off the news in the last two weeks—I’m usually a Seattle Times, BBC news regular—as my stress level can’t handle more bad news, though I’m sure it’s out there.

I need to figure out my inspiration again, why I write what I do, the things that bring me joy about it. Right now, I can’t really remember, or worse, feel stupid for once loving it. I should have known it was a closed system 25 years ago. Or that’s what my bitter cynical side tells me. I try to ignore that voice. […]

Here’s hoping that a little time away in the wilderness—where power and internet are not a given—will give me some much-needed perspective and a chance to spark new ideas and a new mindset. I truly am an optimistic person, so maybe this trip will reset me.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Two Week Post: a Bunch of Small Disasters, June-uary in Seattle, Hoping for Inspiration, Poem in The Shore, Plus Roses, Typewriters, and Cats

Probably because I have been stalled on my manuscript (see previous post), I’ve been reading blogs and speaking with friends about the whole “project” of publishing poetry books. People sure have widely varying opinions. It had occurred to me there would likely be some controversy over this even in a world as small as poetry; but I am surprised at how heated poets, and publishers, can get concerning the whys, whens, and hows of poetry collections. Whether a poet’s work is ready, for example, or–as some folks might put it–worthy of a book or chapbook, and when in one’s “career” is the time to put a book out into the world…and whether the time it takes and the costs of submitting and contest fees are worth the effort or act some sort of barrier to the underfunded, the less-known, and the uninitiated (or to people who just are not very good poets).

Where a writer is in her poetry (career, journey, artistic path, life, whatever) surely makes a difference in whether or when she pursues manuscript-making. Some folks suggest getting a chapbook out as soon as one has enough good poems because a chapbook looks good on a poet’s CV. Others insist it is better to wait and get work published poem-by-poem in journals and literary sites. […]

My feelings on getting my books in print have evolved over the years, and I think that they should. I am no longer a young poet new to the challenge of getting my poems into magazines (they were all print when I was starting out) and thinking about whether I wanted to work in the creative writing field or not. As it turns out, while I did earn an MFA, I never really used it in the academic area where I ended up. But I attend writing conferences, engage in critique, send my work out for publication–singly and in manuscript form–which are all parts of the poet’s career (if you can call it a career).

At this point in my life, I want to make books! I love books, and I love reading poems in books and not on a screen of any kind. It doesn’t matter to me if my books win prizes (though one did!) or are published by top-tier literary presses (er, no…), or if they ever result in my earning anything from my writing (not yet…). Yes, I want my manuscripts to be worthy–by which I mean that a few readers find something of value and enjoyment in them. On balance, that seems good enough for me.

Ann E. Michael, Milling & worthiness

As many of you know, June 16th is Bloomsday—a celebration of Ulysses, which was set on that date in 1904. This year, the date also falls on Fathers Day—a fact that anyone who has read the book would appreciate. […]

When I was a kid, maybe 12 years old, the 1961 Vintage edition of Ulysses made an uncanny and lasting impression on me—and this was before I could even read it. It was a total oddity on the family book shelf. My parents were readers, but they were not into stuff like Joyce. Prior to that point, I’d never picked up a book and found it almost totally incomprehensible. It was like going back to a time before literacy.

I made no real effort to read it then. But two deeply personal facts emerged from my incomprehension that cast an aura around the book: 1) this was the first book I’d seen in which the name Haines appeared (a character goes by that name alone, no first name, and 2) my own father’s name appeared in ink on the inside cover, but written there in a form I’d never seen before or since: “RS Haines”—the form I’d later take in publishing (I did not make this link until much later). I assumed he’d read it, but later learned he had not. Regardless, the book was” his.” The fact that a central character also shares my father’s name, Stephen/Steven, made this all the more “dad-coded.” But my recognizing this did not mean I could connect to him through the book—in fact, the precise opposite. The alienation of that—knowing that everything you write separates you form something—has been a part of what writing means to me. Ultimately, this may have been the moment the idea of “Literature” first arrived to me: it was a signal of massive, alluring confusion that was tied up with the idea of my father and with feeling alienated form my own name by seeing it in a book.

RM Haines, Himself the Ghost of His Own Father?

She heats the milk in a pan, pours
it into calming Christmas mugs (no matter the season), dusts
each with a sprinkle of nutmeg. She goes
from room to room, checking closet doors
and dimming lights. And she sings
the special lullabies, that repertoire of sleepy songs.

He sits in the armchair in the den
and sips his mug of milk.
The cats linger in his lap
as he leafs through the books his children used to love.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, A Poem for Father’s Day

Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a “book” from the very beginning?
A poem begins with either a line that I can’t get rid of in my head, or a desire to capture or express a particular feeling or thought. I think of my writing as going from project to project, definitely thinking of the larger whole as a book instead of writing short pieces and compiling them in a book. In seeing the project as a whole book, I like the investigative, interrogative function of writing poems – you’re telling one larger story but presenting different facets or experiences within that narrative. Poetry has built-in gaps in its form – it doesn’t pretend to tell the whole history of anything – and I like how each poem can evoke a glimpse of something and shed light on it. I see the thing as a whole, with me trying to help it come into being. […]

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?
I guess I’ve been concerned about how to express the intangible and unsayable. How to translate a particular emotion or the inner experience of something into a form that will be able to be shared with the world, to make the subjective less objective. I like finding moments that resonate, that ring out, that confirms, that makes you tremble and feel joy and weep and be in awe. I also think that I’m just the conduit for the art; a lot of my concern is trying to let go of ego and control and let the thing be what it wants to be. It’s important to accept emptiness, free up space, and receive the art. Observing and allowing, and doing only what is necessary.

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Onjana Yawnghwe (rob mclennan)

Now, the fragmentary journey that is my memoir, Ruin & Want, is a challenge but one I hope people will take on. Which is to say: if I could have written this in a straight line, I would have, but please know care and heart went into this just like anything else I create. […]

I remember describing the project early on as a book where each page creaked like loose floorboards late at night when you’re simultaneously hoping to not be heard while also hearing everything around you acutely.

José Angel Araguz, reading afterthoughts & intro

By criticizing marble peaches—and the momentary appeal that such an object might hold—Coleridge articulates a position against the manufacturing of wonder. Illusion and imitation do not lead to true wonder: we might be charmed by the effect, but wonder is richer, deeper, and more psychically complex than mere artifice can sustain. The real peach, with its brief and soft shelf life, is enough to sustain us.

“The well-disciplined mind,” Coleridge argues, is “offended by delusion,” which proves little more than a ploy for inducing something like passing wonder without the benefits and potential for self-questioning and development that wonder provides.

Remember, wonder isn’t “Wow! That’s amazing! Cool!” but “Wow! Huh? Hm…”

Why this matters…

Wonder isn’t the mind’s final resting place. It cannot be permanently sustained. The mileage comes from what happens after a powerful aesthetic experience: the need, as Matthew Scott writes, “to answer its place in our emotional make-up with the act of critical reflection.”

This is where poetry proves an invaluable vehicle for cementing wonder.

Maya C. Popa, Against Manufacturing Wonder

Unlike, say, a sonnet or a sestina, a Fibonacci poem is not determined by the number of lines. It can be as elegantly succinct as a haiku, or as long as a book: Inger Christensen’s remarkable alphabet extends, in Susanna Nied’s fine translation, to almost 70 pages. Depending on the message the poet wishes to convey, a Fibonacci poem can open out, or close down, or both. It’s a dynamic form, with a strong sense of movement and direction. The sequential variation in line length provides an inherent visual component. One of the joys of writing Fibonacci poems is the freedom to play with their appearance on the page.

The form can also be combined with other constraints. Sky, Earth, Other includes a lipogram; an abecedarian; variations on the trimeric; Möbius poems; a fractal poem; and poems that can be read in more than one direction.

The Fibonacci sequence has many associations: organic growth or decay, population dynamics, combinations, spiral forms, the golden ratio, unendingness. Mathematically, there are still unanswered questions relating to the properties of Fibonacci numbers. For example, it is not known whether there are infinitely many Fibonacci primes (Fibonacci numbers that are also prime numbers).

In Sky, Earth, Other I have sought to integrate content and form in both a structural and a visual sense. The book is divided into three sections, with 8 + 13 + 21 = 42 poems altogether. Although the poems do not cover everything, life and the universe definitely feature.

Marian Christie, The space within the nutshell

Sivvy is the name Sylvia Plath used to sign off some of her letters – mostly those to her mother – and this micro-chapbook is a sequence of erasure poems based on her letters where the original text is used but punctuation/capitalisation modified to fit the poem. The cover image shows the flats on Fitzroy Road, Plath had the top flat where the light is on. Poem titles use the date of the letter being erased and take epistolary forms. […]

“Sivvy” uses erasure to offer a new view of Plath’s life through her letters, albeit in a small selection largely focused on the last two month’s of Plath’s life. However, I’m not convinced the micro-chapbook is aimed at a general readership. The lack of contextual information, the failure to name who the letters are addressed to and the foreshadowing imply the audience is people who already know Plath’s life and work and are familiar with the letters. The focus on two key events, marrying Hughes, and the last two months, plus splitting one letter into three poems, reveal an intention to give a foreshadowing to Plath’s life that Plath did not have. Plath frequently wrote to her audience and her letters are no different. Erasing the letters down to a single message does them, and Plath, a disservice. The Plath in “Sivvy” is melodramatic and eager to please. The Plath in real life employed humour, sarcasm and, aside from a few letters in 1962/3, determined to paint a cheerful view of her life to not worry her mother. “Sivvy” is a talking point, not a set of answers and its main interest is the methodology.

Emma Lee, “Sivvy” Lauren Davis (Whittle Micro Press) – book review

I don’t write many reviews just now—children and my job and River River Books (joyfully!) receive most of my hours—so I want to celebrate this review at Poetry Northwest with you, because Diane Seuss is doing work that I genuinely think most major American poets cannot: writing poetry that has a clear-eyed gaze towards class, and life lived at the wide and rural borders, edges, margins.

Han VanderHart, All of Us Come with a Ballad

“My poems are to be taken as careless sketches,” wrote Finland-Swedish poet Edith Södergran in 1918. In fact, Södergran was a formal innovator, a modernist pioneer writing across linguistic and national borders while suffering poverty and illness in the shadow of world war, and a feminist who challenged gender binaries. She died at the age of 31 from tuberculosis in her hometown of Raivola, Finland, which is now part of Russia. 

My favorite quotation from Södergran’s writing about her work, which I keep taped above my desk: “My self-confidence comes from the fact that I have discovered my dimensions. It does not behoove me to make myself smaller than I am.” 

I first came across Sodergran’s poetry over a decade ago when I asked a close Swedish friend of my sister Brita who her favorite Swedish-language poets were. When Brita then loaned me the volume she already happened to have on her shelf (which I’ve never returned to her, I realize as I write this) and I began to read the poems of this authoritative, cosmic voice, I was amazed. How did this mysterious young woman write with such boldness and brevity, tethered so completely, so purely, to both heaven and earth? To the pure joy of existence, and to mortality? 

The bilingual (Swedish/English) selection of her work, Love & Solitude, translated by Stina Katchadourian, has been an honored companion for me over this past decade (it appears to be out of print, but another wonderful translation is this one by Malena Mörling and Jonas Ellerström). It is one of the three or four books I always bring with me if I’m going off to write for any length of time, and I turn to it again and again for inspiration and poetic and spiritual sustenance as one would a sacred text. 

Sarah Rose Nordgren, The First Thread of my Red Dress

I first came upon the work of Sean Thomas Dougherty through his poem “Why Bother” that at one point a few years back went viral. I chose this next poem because I think it goes with the song [“Downbound Train” by Bruce Springsteen] nicely. I chose it because, the words, “I’m still here” speak to me. Dougherty works or has worked as a “third-shift caregiver and med tech for folks with traumatic brain injuries.” But his bio in the book I have of his that I love, The Dead Are Everywhere Telling Us Things, says, “By the time you read this book, he might be unemployed or on to different work.”

In the Forbes interview he says, “We don’t need to win the Pulitzer Prize, just one poem to save one life, to recognize one life, to witness one life. What is more righteous and humbler than that? ‘To be righteous in small ways,’ says the poem, says this labor.” And he writes about work with such grace. I’m interested in writing that talks about our life in work — which for most of us is a great portion of our existence and one that we are largely stymied from talking about due to privacy and policy and etc. The dream of letting the Sisyphean boulder roll though…just for a moment….it’s rather life-giving don’t you agree?

Shawna Lemay, Mixtape – Springsteen, Dougherty, Gilliam

Overall it was interesting to note the poems that seem to drop at the audience’s feet when I finish reading them rather than hang in the air. I think I have done some learning about which poems to leave on the page and which ones are in their element when floated out into the air to be listened to.

Alt text says this week’s photo is, ‘A person standing behind a sign’. I say it is a poet slightly on tiptoe because they didn’t really adjust the mic properly for themselves reading the first poem in their set at Oswestry Pride 2024. I also say they must have disappeared behind the sign each time they bent down to select a different book to read from and missed the opportunity to milk that moment by popping up like a puppet!

Sue Finch, The Bandstand

For Barthes, the author was nothing, the reader everything; and Underwood’s analysis seems to make the same claim – any point of stability that we might designate ‘The Author’ simply disappears in a puff of smoke, replaced by a multiplicity of shifting and subjective interpretations. A thrillingly postmodern view of what it means to know a text. 

But now, here comes generative AI with its Large Language Models that can generate texts of increasing complexity and nuance, literally without the need for an author. And it seems to me that we finally have on the near horizon the possibility of the actual death of the author – a death which when it comes down to it, Barthes was only fantasising about. Now we can really have stories and poems whose meaning really lies only with the reader. Barthesians should celebrate, should they not? Or if they are not, they should at least ask themselves why they are not pleased that we can finally bid farewell to that outmoded and unfashionable concept of ‘authorial intent’. 

The truth is, and I don’t think I need to point out the wider cultural relevance of this, theoretical musings on what something is or isn’t make for wonderful philosophy, but they don’t seem so much fun when that thing is actually faced with imminent destruction. Suddenly all the old, simpler, more unfashionably obvious definitions seem important again. 

Chris Edgoose, The Day the Author Died 

The playwright Mike Bartlett does an exercise with aspiring playwrights where they take turns lying on a large piece of paper while a fellow student draws an outline of their body. Then the aspiring playwrights write down, within the outline, an event for every year of their life. Each of these memories is paired with a larger cultural event for that same year. Finally, the aspiring playwrights brainstorm a dozen or so storylines.

This exercise scares me. Maybe most of all because I’ll discover how little I remember. Also, what if memories come rushing back? No. Honestly: memories don’t come rushing or flooding back for me. They come like links of a thick chain I pull out of dark water. I can often feel the weight of them before I know what I’ve got. Each linked to the next.

And there is always a fear of what might come up. […]

When you slowly pull a chain out of dark water, there is a moment when the link is reflected on the surface and you aren’t able to tell if it’s really a reflection, or the obscured view of the next link—the one we may not want to acknowledge is really there.

If I were to lie on a piece of butcher paper and you were to trace my body with chalk, you’d see I leave behind the outline of a solitary wasp.

There are millions of us. And countless have been before.

Ren Powell, An Outline with Memories

there is so much
we do not know about the body.
it is more like the ocean
than i even thought. the waiting room
where i stand up & leave
deciding i need to be a dragonfly
for just today. to be gloriously unfixable.

Robin Gow, my doctor tells me “there’s so much we don’t know”

On the side of the road a woman stands, holding
her offering of fish. Their silver bodies slung together, tempting
the sun to glint and reflect their scales.
Do you see it now? The generations and generations who have pulled
life from the earth and used it to build their bones?
Your breath?
What can you do to return
Such a favor, but hold still, as the trees fatten
with new rings, and mangoes fall into your hands, ripe
as you open your eyes to watch
this ancient flock of conures teach you
how to look up, dreaming yourself into their old sky.

Tresha Faye Haefner, What I Learned from Ada Limon’s “Failed” Novel and My Own

We are waiting
for a pause in the air, that hour
between the golden-leaved
light of afternoon and the moment
the blue-black shade unrolls.
We are waiting for the matchstick-
struck lights of fireflies to radio
the location of stones, to signal
that it is time to draw one more
oracle card—here is a bee
and here is a hummingbird;
and here is a cormorant
with a fish in his mouth, larger
than he could swallow.

Luisa A. Igloria, Juncture

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