Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 27

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: an outbreak of poetry, intimate retributions, fireflies speaking in sign language, the pursuit of happiness, and more. Enjoy.

a dawn sea
breathing in and out
at the same time

Jim Young [no title]

I confess to being a planner by temperament, but some of the best moments of any trip are serendipity. I’m just back from 2 1/2 weeks in Scotland, where one of my most poetic encounters was turning the corner onto Rose Street in Edinburgh, feeling tired and looking for somewhere to eat, and spotting a kind of writing on the wall–a series of cut steel panels, image and text. “Wait,” I said, “that’s a poem. Wait, that’s a GOOD poem.” It turned out to be “Beachcomber” by George Mackay Brown, whose multigenre book An Orkney Tapestry I described in my last post. Read about the mural’s creation by Astrid Jaekel here. The other two writing on the wall images above are from Orkney, whose main island we visited in our last few days: a tombstone in St. Magnus Cathedral and Victorian graffiti in a Neolithic cairn. People have been trying to impress their stamp on a stony-faced world for a long, long time.

I did NOT leave my literary mark on Edinburgh, because on the day I spotted “Beachcomber” I had a runny nose, and the next day it was worse, and then I understood I needed to hole up and stop going viral in the bad sense. I canceled my Shore Poets reading in the Waverly Bar and was SO sad about it–but some of travel’s accidents aren’t particularly poetic.

Lesley Wheeler, History’s weather

There had been an outbreak of poetry
thankfully it was only a villanelle.
The symptoms were a moody intensity,
giving his life an ABA frequency.
He was quarantined in a cheap hotel.


When I return from a trip I often find myself searching for balance in the complexities of every day life.

Finding My Way

Being careful matters
All the more
New obstacles clutter the
Courtyard of my

I see that “As” as representing being, momentarily, on one foot, deciding where to put the other down.

Ellen Roberts Young, An Acrostic

I always enjoy elections and the act of voting. In order to celebrate that, and the outcome of Thursday’s election, here are some poems by the late, great haiku poet David Cobb. The first is from Jumping from Kiyomizu (Iron Press), 1996, happily still available here; the second and third were published in his 2000 collection A Bowl of Sloes (Snapshot Press); the fourth is from Wing Beats, ed. John Barlow and me (Snapshot Press, 2008), available here; and the fifth was published in David’s 2015 self-published collection Chiaroscuro.

It’s nice to see that David was well ahead of the game in observing dogs at polling stations.

Matthew Paul, Election Time

high clouds
the cows all grazing
one way

Tom Clausen, aphids

I like birds, like watching the hop hop hop of robin across the lawn, the bounce bounce of crow around carrion in the street. The flying. Slow flap of heron, high circle of vulture, quick zip of some little brown thing in the underbrush. Cheep cheep. I stop sometimes on my bike ride at a marsh and take out my birdsong app to see who I can’t see but can hear in the thicket and trees. I’m starting to remember the call of the common yellowthroat and the yellow warbler along with the long-familiar red-winged blackbird, the catbird, the jay. Across my path not long ago the startling flash of oriole, unmistakable in its vivid orange, black wings. I posted on Facebook that I’d seen it, and later that day found 20 likes from people who “got it,” who got what a thrill it is. Why? Why is it a thrill? Why do I want to recognize a call? Why do thousands of people do the backyard birdcount on New Year’s Day? I like to think of it as an attempt to connect to the world we find ourselves in and often ignore, the world of what’s around us that’s not us. We humans take up a large amount of our time and attention. It’s good to turn aside from ourselves. One time I was running along the Hudson and came across a crowd of people all focused and pointing. A seal had swum up the river miles to just where the salty sea gives way to freshwater. Word got out and people were coming to see it. I stood next to a dad and a little kid, one as excited as the other. This gives me hope for the world. Momentarily.

But now I’m longwindedly telling what this wonderful little poem by Li-Young Lee does in 8 short lines, slim poem on a big page. It’s small and grand, a moment and eternal.

Marilyn McCabe, The work of wings

I’ve kept a garden journal for 30 years. If you have a garden, you don’t need to be an environmental scientist to recognize that the climate is undergoing changes. This is not a political statement but a fact. Everything right now is stressed–including the gardener! The stress enters into my consciousness and, I suppose, into my creative life. My poem drafts of the past week have been a bit on the bleak side.

Here’s a draft of one of the 7-line poems I was working on last week. Suits the weather, I guess. […]

Blackbirds slow their trills, robins shelter in shade,
all the tasks we should tend to we leave undone.
Hours of lethargy seep into skin and set up house,
keeping us damp, achy, sunburned with the blues.

Ann E. Michael, Sweltering

Semi-trapped at my desk with boot upon broken foot, the site formerly known as Twitter provides me with an introduction to the work of Brazilian novelist and translator Victor Heringer (1988-2018) through the online journal grand: The Journal of One Grand Books. I should be working on final proofs for On Beauty, but I am caught up here, instead. Heringer’s piece, “THE WALL AGAINST DEATH,” provides this as introduction: “The late Victor Heringer authored the following crônica, a literary hybrid form of personal essay and cultural criticism popular in Brazil, four years before his death in 2018. Here it is available in English for the first time, translated by James Young.” There are echoes between the nameless form of this particular notebook and Heringer’s crônica, echoes of Robert Creeley’s A Day Book (1972), all the ways through which writing and writers work through their thinking across a particular blend of critical, lyric hybrid. We are not so divided, after all, however unique.

Wikipedia offers that “Crônica or crónica is a Portuguese-language form of short writings about daily topics, published in newspaper or magazine columns. Crônicas are usually written in an informal, observational and sometimes humorous tone, as in an intimate conversation between writer and reader. Writers of crônicas are called cronistas.” I very much like the idea of that, the “intimate conversation between writer and reader,” echoing back to Robert Kroetsch’s mantra of all literature as part of a much larger polyphonic conversation. And so, Heringer wrote against death, which the translation provides for him, posthumously. In that, as well. Isn’t that what we’re all doing? The push in my own writing and writing life, raised by a mother with a long-term illness that could, and even should, have taken her out multiple times across those forty-three difficult years. I need to do these things now, I thought, at seventeen, twenty-one, twenty-seven. I don’t know how much time I might have.

rob mclennan, from “the green notebook”

This post is a tribute to my brother Theo who died early on Tuesday morning in hospital. […] The poem 1962 was published in my debut collection Another life. […]

Three months later he arrived home,
just in time for Sint Nikolaas.
My brother still limped and his crown
was marked by two scars at right angles,
the space between dipped and dented.
A few days later grandfather came
to take his radio back.

Fokkina McDonnell, A tribute

Every Wreckage by Ian C. Williams
I loved the vulnerability and sensitivity in these poems. I feel that many male poets lean into a bravado in their poems (I’m looking at you, Robert Lowell…), I felt like Williams’ poems were the poetry of a person who feels things deeply. In his poem, “The Bread. The Knife.” he asks, “isn’t this what it means / to be human? To hold on / to a wound as if that will fix it?”. This collection does examine wounds—from childhood (“Self-Portrait as the Second Son” was a particular favorite there) and into adulthood (“Young Fathers”). I felt like this was the kind of book my husband would write if he was a poet—unashamed to deal with the domestic, the everyday, and to own the fears, pain, and desires that are plainly human, not just relegated to the feminine sphere. I’m looking forward to reading more work by this poet!

Renee Emerson, Wolf-Children, Wreckage, & Wonderful Writing Prompts

My book An Intimate Retribution was published just as the academic environment began taking appropriation seriously (a good thing), so seriously that people were “called out” publicly, and discussion was nearly impossible (never a good thing).

I’d ridden a wave of intellectual and artistic inquiry smack into a newly-built wall. During a presentation at Goldsmith College, I was chastised loudly by a handful of undergraduate white women.

I’m always open to reevaluating what I think is ethical and right. But I wish I didn’t retreat into shame so often, and so quickly.

I was talking about my exposure to Arab poetry forms while working with PEN International. How the aesthetics intrigued me, and challenged me. I was finishing up the collection I read from then: poems that drew on two years’ of studying poetic devises used in a couple of Arab poetry forms. I wasn’t replicating the forms, but borrowing devices that I found rich and exciting.

Every question was an accusation stemming from the worst possible assumptions. I’d never experienced anything like it.

After the session at the university, and just before I left, a quiet woman in a hijab came to thank me for being respectful and curious about what I could learn from the Arab poetry forms. She hoped it would open a discussion for more intercultural sharing in the arts communities.

I couldn’t exactly go back to the white girls and say, “See, there!” Sometimes the best thing for me to do is to just step back… and keep writing the poetry without positing theories.

But for years… I wouldn’t even write a damn haiku without feeling shameful.

Ren Powell, Bakersfield

Yesterday, I shared this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye on X, as I do every Fourth of July. It’s a brilliant, spare exercise in reframing and enacts its central insight without fuss:

No Explosions

To enjoy
you would have
to have lived
a different kind
of life

The poem reached 350k readers. A greater number of views means a greater number of negative reactions, and while I recognize that sharing some of them here would create a more visually dynamic post, I’ll leave you to imagine some of the hateful comments directed at a Palestinian-American poet and the disturbing replies by X’s MAGA constituents to a poem that doesn’t cosign militaristic performance.

While I’m aware of the prevalence of this sort of behavior on the internet, I rarely come across these perspectives. Neither my poetry account on X nor this newsletter tend to invite vitriol. From day one, Substack readers have been my ideal readers, and I stay on X because I reason that poems are still reaching audiences, and someone is still getting value from them. As long as they do, I will take a few minutes out of my day to post, then sign off as quickly as possible.

Usually, if enough eyes reach a poem, someone breaks the news to me that “This is not a poem.” This is also true for poems that I write and share. Not a poem, someone (usually a man, I’m sorry to say) will tell me.

What stops you in your tracks—what stopped me in mine—was hearing the implicit violence in the replies to “No Explosions.”

It’s easy to grit one’s teeth and say here’s another bigoted/racist/misogynist loser trolling from their mother’s basement and let the spike of adrenaline be mitigated by our moral high ground. Often, the ego will rush in to remind us that we’re better than these strangers—better educated, employed, connected to a network of better others. We’re in the class of better while they stew in the swampy marshes of their hate.

But these “trolls”—the very term is dehumanizing—are not a subclass of human being. Like it or not, they are one of our own. They are operating under the illusion of separation, but that doesn’t mean that we should, too. […]

Friends, I wanted to title this “Healing the Virtual Wound” before I realized that I don’t yet have concrete suggestions for how to heal it. I’d like, instead, to hold the question of healing between us from our patch of Eden on Substack. Each of us must take care of ourselves, then do what we can to help others process their pain. You are already doing this so beautifully through your essays on grief (I’m looking at you, Mary Roblyn), your poems, your photos, your stories. I wrote this today because I wanted to be honest about catching my own ego in action, my own story of superiority and separateness as I read despicable words, though mostly I felt relief that my heart is light, not poisoned by bigotry or leadened with hopelessness in the face of ugliness.

I understand what a poem can do. I know it can change the course of a person’s day, and therefore their life. It can be the company they desperately need to keep going. It can be what helps them sit down to write something that will change another person’s life. So, in a small way, circulating poems is an act of service. It’s an act of love for the human family, for the people I’ll never meet but want to see thrive.

Maya C. Popa, The Virtual Wound

Meanwhile, wildfires
follow my brother up and

down the West Coast. Here I pass
a folded paper crane to

a man who just lost his job.
Outside the store, signs spell out

“All sales final.” Songbirds shrill
anxious warbles, still lovely.

Small white and pink flowers hug
the ground, petals edged in tan

and brown. The word for clover
burns away out of my brain.

PF Anderson, Independence Day

I am using the launch of The Ghost Lake to motivate me, as a kind of elevator to another floor in which I value myself more. I am using it as a place to jump forward and to make decisions about my future from. There are many spider-plans being drawn, and then crossed out and re drawn, each one with a certain amount of courses, workshops, mentoring, spelt activities, podcast activities etc reduced, each one with the prices increased for my services. It has to be like this for me. I have to repeat and repeat and repeat, reduce and reduce and reduce, reminding myself over and over to be realistic with my time, be bold, be brave, get into the habit of saying no, of reminding myself that to want to have a slower life doing things I love is not a sin, that evolution is uncomfortable, that change is frightening but that this is the moment to jump. I am removing the bricks of my strange building with its too many tiny rooms in which I can barely turn round in for all the clutter and am building something airy, with wide windows and good light.

I had a weird dream once about a cool, shady house with tall green plants all around, and in the middle was a white courtyard, and in the courtyard a swimming pool, deep and dappled, and I was dangling my feet in it, wearing a wide brimmed straw hat and a red bathing costume. Sudden panic like waking up from sleep walking then – whose house is this? A sudden sense of being in the wrong place, of intruding, of being an imposter. And then the clear bell of knowledge – this is my house. I dreamt myself a place of refuge and I intend on building it, if only metaphorically.

This is my house and I deserve the cool courtyard and the dappled water, the wide windows and good light.

Wendy Pratt, Sometimes in Order to Build A New Life You Must Destroy the Old Life

As I was recovering, I was watching a lot of television and ended up watching a lot of the show Lottery Dream Home. It got me thinking about what I would do if I won the lottery, would I want a new dream home? Our home isn’t perfect (hence the ADA bath remodel in the works), but it works pretty well for us. I like our neighbors and our local farm stands and wineries (though I don’t drink much wine) and the house is a little small for entertaining, and I don’t love having an HOA, but basically it fills our needs, and I wouldn’t trade it. It might be nice to have a second home somewhere warmer and sunnier in winter but it’s definitely not a necessity, and I’d probably be more likely to spend money on home improvements (more built-in bookshelves?) or starting a scholarship or charity for writers with disabilities than another home. It also strangely made me feel more okay about my life in general. Of course, more money would be great—or more poetry-world success—but are those things really that important? More health would be really, really helpful, of course. (I’m working on it, with a team of doctors, of course.) But ultimately, I’m pretty…dare I say it…okay with my life right now. Of course, I have anxieties about the normal things—especially about how my parents are aging many miles away—am I doing enough good in the world, etc.—but not feeling as panic-stricken as I did, say a month ago or so. Not sure why the shift, but a week away in a beautiful remote rugged island and then another week in a hospital WILL give you perspective.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, July 4, Lavender Farms, Heatwaves and Midsummer Realizations

A return to fiction was my plan and I took my new notebook on the train to Bristol about three times before life, again, thwarted my ambitions, this time in the form of a global pandemic. Poetry, somehow, continued to squeeze itself in to my upended life – I couldn’t find enough space for longer form writing – and I’m grateful to Live Canon for publishing a pamphlet of my poems last year and to Maria Isakova Bennet for publishing a mini pamphlet of my work in the Coast to Coast to Coast competition.

So, this is where I am, third paragraph down, letting you know that I’m slowly, laboriously, filling some of my notebooks with longer form writing. However, some notebooks are still dedicated to poems, since I cheated on prose and scripts with poetry a long time ago and I’m not quite ready to leave that relationship. Perhaps I can find a way to have an open friendship with more than one form of writing. That’s certainly what I’m striving for.

Josephine Corcoran, Just to say…

Those of us with dual British-French nationality are having a busy week of voting, with the two rounds of the snap French election, called inexplicably by Macron less than a month ago, taking place last Sunday and this coming Sunday, and the UK general election today. While the outcome of the UK vote looks pretty predictable, in France the atmosphere is tense and uncertain — a very messy hung parliament looks the most likely outcome. As an antidote, I thought I’d look today at a couple of uplifting examples of the best of British and Francophone literary culture: two very different but genuinely enticing journals with an international outlook and a particular interest in translation.

When I wrote about Poetry Review back in January, one of the things that most irritated me about the issue was its handling of verse in translation — printing several poems in English translation without any indication of the language from which they had been translated. I criticised the same thing in a recent review of the Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse, so PR is hardly alone, but I wish Anglophone publications would stop doing it. I am probably unusually sensitive about it, but I do think it’s a peculiarly crass kind of linguistic imperialism: whether or not you have any knowledge of it at all, it surely matters in which language a poem (a poem!) was originally written.

I’ve heard good things, incidentally, about the latest issue of Poetry Review (which hasn’t yet reached me — hopefully not because I’ve been blacklisted . . .). So my intention is not at all to reignite controversy, but instead to take a look at a two quite different journals that in my opinion both do poetry in translation really well — James Appleby’s Interpret, founded in 2010 in Edinburgh; and the venerable la revue de belles-lettres, published in Switzerland and now in its 148th (!) year.

Victoria Moul, Anent the jaa and stour: poetry in translation

When I read a poetry/story book where few of the pieces have been previously published, my first reaction is “if they’re not good enough to get into magazines, why should they be preserved in a book?” I then wonder about how many of the pieces are padding, there only so that the few good pieces can be sold in a book-length package.

But now that e-mail and submittable has helped to increase the number of magazine submissions by an order of magnitude or so, magazines may not be as reliable gatekeepers as before. On X recently Matthew Stewart pointed out that “Submittable lends itself to poems that generate an immediate impact. There’s no time for a poem to grow on an editor, for apparent simplicity to reveal its depths.” It’s similar with stories. A piece whose strength is the acculumation of small domestic details is going to struggle. There’s no point in dropping little depth charges that will be detonated by a little phrase near the end, because by then the overworked editor (or intern) will be onto the next submission.

So I’m beginning to accept that some pieces may have to first appear in a book.

Tim Love, The book/magazine hierarchy

Last week saw the Cheshire Prize Awards for Literature Evening where the announcements were made for poetry, short stories and script writing. Livi Michael gave an interesting opening speech about her own writing and the importance of each writer’s relationship with winning and not winning. I did not get placed in the competition this time, but I loved the event. Beforehand Kath and I got to chat to lovely poets that we know and this made it all the more special. I felt a lovely sense of belonging. In the past there had been a big part of me that felt anxious at the very possibility of winning because I was so self-conscious. This part has disappeared and it was lovely to recognise this when I reflected back on what had felt particularly good about the event.

I still remember vividly when Cheryl Pearson’s poem ‘The Cartographer’s Daughter’ won the competition in 2016. Ian McMillan was presenting the prizes and he did a wonderful build up to us finding out which poem had been selected. I loved the feeling of anticipation before he read the whole poem out loud and the feeling of celebration and admiration in the room. Looking at the back of the anthology from that event I see the names of the poetry tribe that gathered in the foyer this year and it makes me smile. All of us still finding joy in writing and entering competitions.

Sue Finch, A group of figurines and a picture of a heart

I describe this blog as a ‘poetry notebook’ but I rarely use it like a notebook – that is as an ad-hoc collection of quotes, piecemeal thoughts or even drawings. I try and often fail to write the same kind of finished articles that I do for magazines and newspapers, if on a smaller scale. Funny, that.

Funny, and especially funny given that if I was in the business of issuing broad-brush statements about anything my first one would be: writing is the business of making notes. For an author or a poet, this means notes about the world, or other people, or whatever’s going on in their own heads or ideally some combination of the three. This is superficially easy – there is no entrance exam, no special tools or knowledge required – and in practice very hard. For the critic or the essayist, this means making notes about other peoples’ writing. This is superficially hard (I sometimes read or hear very good creative writers say that they couldn’t possibly do it, and in any case it reminds most normal people of school) and in practice very easy: all you have to do is copy out what someone else has written and then comment on it. Unlike thoughts or birds or traffic, words that are already on the page stay still. Half the job is done for you.

It gets much harder if you forget the first step, which I always do. I’m more convinced than ever that every good essay or review begins as a series of extracts, yet every time I write one I try end up trapped in a thicket of my own words, one I can only cut myself out from by remembering to go back to the text.

I thought about this a lot, for obvious reasons, while I was writing about Roly Allen’s excellent history of the notebook for the (excellent) summer issue of The London Magazine. One of the lessons in the book, which perhaps should be obvious but is worth repeating endlessly, is that the value of making notes isn’t simply what you draw together but the act of drawing. For instance: when you quote a passage by hand, or copy something from sight, something inside you changes – in the case of sketching, your brain literally changes if you practice for long enough. In the case of words, you remember them better.

Jeremy Wikeley, Notebook #1: Strong words

How to inspire folks to read poetry? (Well, how to inspire anyone to read/do anything :) ) And I think the key word there is obviously inspire. When you can lead someone to poetry, to a single poem, even, and maybe even to a line of poetry, if it resonates, they will remember it. I once read a poem at a staff meeting from the book, Soul Food, and whenever I see this one person who was moved by it, he mentions it, quotes from it. I think the words by Blaise Pascal (by way of John O’Donohue’s book, Beauty) are instructive:

“In difficult times you should always carry something beautiful in your mind.”

— Blaise Pascal

I refer to Soul Food often, and in fact, recently read a poem I love from the anthology. (Which honestly, I wanted to try and do something outside my comfort zone on Ig but I don’t love it and might take it down lol so watch quickly). There are so many poems that I carry in my mind and which happen to be in Soul Food. I love how, for example there is a poem titled “Anger” by Cèsar Vallejo on one page on the other side is “Hope” by Edith Södergran on the other. (Translated from the Spanish and Finland Swedish respectively). Such a thoughtful placement and also, helpful, at least for me these days, as I swing between anger and hope.

Shawna Lemay, Poetry Club – Soul Food

i open my mouth & sing to you
about the soil. we both once slept there
as freckles of words. do you know
what it feels like to hold
a colony in your jaws? someday you will.
that is what i have learned
from the windowsill. that today
i am the one with a mouth
but tomorrow you will be the bird
who hits the glass or you will be
the animal with eyes made of gold.

Robin Gow, 7/4

“Red Handed” explores the histories of cloth and clothing dyes, the natural world and man’s usage (positive and negative) of it, since most dyes originated in taking colours from nature. An example is from “Bodies Remember such Histories, even when we forget them”, which ends,

If I were to ask you to guess the world’s most wanted colour –

Not a chest of it reached England without the stain of human.

Darkened as if by bruising,

In the womb of the vat there is life.

Gnosis at temporal frequency in the third eye.

Oxygen turned sorcerer, colour of the devil’s dye.

The bold initial letters spell out the colour. Dyeing can be a dangerous process, especially on an industrial scale with employers willing to take short cuts to please shareholders or drive down prices. Colouring textiles to the most vibrant colours takes knowledge of the fabric and its imperfections, understanding and insight of how the chemicals (whether natural or artificial) react and create the colour stains in the fabric. To the uninformed, it looks like sorcery, to a beginner there are many hours of trial and mostly error before cotton can be dyed the right shade of indigo. […]

JLM Morton uses colour as metaphor to explore and interpret messages from the natural world. The artificialness of dyeing fabrics and the detrimental impact that has had both on animals and humans is implicated rather than spelt out. There’s no didacticism, no judgement but layers accumulate to suggest the urgency of human choice as humanity pushes to the brink of an emergency. “Red Handed” is a judicious title that encapsulates the subtle poems within.

Emma Lee, “Red Handed” JLM Morton (Broken Sleep Books) – book review

DESIRE’S AUTHORITY, J. I. Kleinberg, from Triple No. 23. Ravenna Press, Edmonds, Washington, 2023, pp. 61-80, paper, $12.95. http://ravennapress.com.

Last Saturday, I slipped away from the Chuckanut Writers Conference to attend a reading, at Dakota Art in downtown Bellingham, featuring Anita K. Boyle, Sheila Sondik, and J. I. Kleinberg. Yes, the conference was wonderful, with a plethora of good stuff on offer, but the trifecta of these voices, plus their art, was too great a temptation. I’m so glad I was able to be there.

Kleinberg read from several books, including her Dickinson inspired chapbook of collage poems, Desire’s Authority, published last year by Ravenna Press. I’ve been on a book-buying binge (a binge that seriously has to stop) but this book I already had in my possession. So, once I was home, I went through my TBR pile of poetry books and found it.

Take all the serendipity of how I stumbled into this happy accident, and times it by three, and you have Triple No. 23 (also featuring chapbooks by Michelle Eames and Heikki Huotari).

Kleinberg’s collage poems, alone, are all about serendipity, juxtaposition, and happy accidents.  She creates them by cutting apart words found in magazines—if it sounds a bit like ransom demands, you’re not wrong. Not demanding in the sense of difficulty, but definitely willing to hold your attention hostage.

Bethany Reid, J. I. Kleinberg, DESIRE’S AUTHORITY

For one throb of the artery,
While on that old grey stone I sat
Under the old wind-broken tree,
I knew that One is animate,
Mankind inanimate phantasy.

These thoughts may be too trivial or obvious to bother putting down, but on my morning walk I was thinking about the strange hold on memory and imagination that this poem holds. Perhaps interestingly, when I got home I found I’d misremembered it – I’d left out line three. Now, I wouldn’t swear that it wouldn’t be a better poem without it, old wind-broken trees being something of a personal cliché of Yeats’ poems. Leaving that aside, what makes the poem’s hold strange is that it’s hard to attach any very definite sense to it. We don’t remember it for its intellectual content, or for any very vivid image. But in a weird way I think this also partially explains the hold. The poem gives a very powerful sensation of trying to focus or retain an elusive idea. It does so by sheer rhythmical and syntactical brilliance. Each line moves in a very definite way, making one feel that something very definite is being said. The heavy tread of the stresses in the first half of the first line and the second half of the second heighten this effect. This strong enunciation paradoxically makes the vision seem both more and less definite, making it seem first to hover on the edge of crystallisation and then to recede from it. The pattern of the whole poem – with or without  line three – has a similar effect. As you hear the poem in your inner ear, rhymes seem to form and dissolve themselves, suggesting a shape appearing in smoke or water rather than engraved on something solid. The effect is particularly strong with the ‘artery’ / ‘phantasy’ pair where the main echo is metrical and the two unstressed syllables of ‘phantasy’ makes the whole poem seem to fade out rather than conclude. Of course it’s appropriate that this fading out effect comes in the word that declares that fantasy is all we are.

Edmund Prestwich, Yeats, A Meditation in Time of War

Somewhere, a firework decides not to sail above county fairs, city streets, or mobile homes.

Doesn’t wanna make pets cower or war vets suffer PTSD.

Wants to venture into quieter vocations like being a writer, painter, or monk.

Bottle rockets and firecrackers be damned. Charcoal and sulfur to a whisper.

Somewhere, a firework decides to go quiet.

Its burst of gold sparkles, more like fireflies speaking in sign language. 

Rich Ferguson, Fourth of July

What can one do now, given it’s

impossible to look too far ahead into a future?
And yet we plan on making a trip to celebrate

a wedding, to visit the park with a giant silver bean
and water fountains. We make plans for dinner

and a show, a visit to the museum to look up
at a fossil’s 67-million-year old bones. Whatever

you call it, that spirit rolls up its brightest clothes into
the luggage, leaving a bit of room for the unknown.

Luisa A. Igloria, Audacity is a Kind of Hope

A person is a note in the mouth of probability hungry for song, reverberating with echoes of the impossible. To exist at all is as close as this universe of austere laws and inert matter gets to a miracle. At its most miraculous, life has a musical quality, harmonious and symphonic with meaning.

Maria Popova, Let the Last Thing Be Song

Finally, I want to share one more thing with you, a healing and hopeful poem from 26th Avenue Poet Elizabeth: “Somewhere, Always

Here is a snippet:

This is not the first time; always, somewhere,
everything is falling apart. And somewhere, always,
someone is baking bread or brewing tea,
someone helps a neighbor in their garden, while someone else
sits quiet next to a friend who cannot stop weeping
until they can….

If I could add only one thing to Oluo’s list, it would be to read poetry such as this, something to remind us of what we can do and the importance of doing it, even when things are falling apart.

Rita Ott Ramstad, The pursuit of happiness

七月の海や紅茶とマドレーヌ 浅井民子

hichigatsu no umi ya kōcha to madoreenu

July sea—
a cup of tea
and a madeleine

                          Tamiko Asai

from Haiku Shiki (Haiku Four Seasons), July 2023 Issue, Tokyo Shiki Shuppan, Tokyo

Fay Aoyagi, Today’s Haiku (July 2, 2024)

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