Complicit

Th[ursday].
Greetings book, 1s.
Begun this day to learn the Recorder. To the office, where all the morning. Dined with my clerks: and merry at Sir W. Pen’s crying yesterday, as they say, to the King, that he was his martyr.
So to White Hall by coach to Commissioners of [the] Treasury about certificates, but they met not, 2s.
To Westminster by water. To Westminster Hall, where I hear W. Pen is ordered to be impeached, 6d.
There spoke with many, and particularly with G. Montagu: and went with him and Creed to his house, where he told how W. Pen hath been severe to Lord Sandwich; but the Coventrys both labouring to save him, by laying it on Lord Sandwich, which our friends cry out upon, and I am silent, but do believe they did it as the only way to save him. It could not be carried to commit him. It is thought the House do coole: W. Coventry’s being for him, provoked Sir R. Howard and his party; Court, all for W. Pen. Thence to White Hall, but no meeting of the Commissioners, and there met Mr. Hunt, and thence to Mrs. Martin’s, and, there did what I would, she troubled for want of employ for her husband,
spent on her 1s.
Thence to the Hall to walk awhile and ribbon, spent 1s.
So [to] Lord Crew’s, and there with G. Carteret and my Lord to talk, and they look upon our matters much the better, and by this and that time is got, 1s.
So to the Temple late, and by water, by moonshine, home, 1s.
books, 6d.
Wrote my letters to my Lady Sandwich, and so home, where displeased to have my maid bring her brother, a countryman, to lye there, and so to bed.

greetings o gun of a martyr
I hear each reed cry out

and I am silent
as a house in war

I hunt for a better moon
to lie to

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: unfinished entry for Thursday 16 April 1668

Ethnostate

new flag soft as the morning light expecting wind music I hear a cry God goes to stay at his pretty playhouse tragedy and oranges drop into the same old well

After playing a little upon my new little flageolet, that is so soft that pleases me mightily, betimes to my office, where most of the morning.
Then by coach, 1s.
and meeting Lord Brouncker, ’light at the Exchange, and thence by water to White Hall, 1s.
and there to the Chapel, expecting wind musick and to the Harp-and-Ball, and drank all alone, 2d.
Back, and to the fiddling concert, and heard a practice mighty good of Grebus, and thence to Westminster Hall, where all cry out that the House will be severe with Pen; but do hope well concerning the buyers, that we shall have no difficulty, which God grant! Here met Creed, and, about noon, he and I, and Sir P. Neale to the Quaker’s, and there dined with a silly Executor of Bishop Juxon’s, and cozen Roger Pepys. Business of money goes on slowly in the House. Thence to White Hall by water, and there with the Duke of York a little, but stayed not, but saw him and his lady at his little pretty chapel, where I never was before: but silly devotion, God knows! Thence I left Creed, and to the King’s playhouse, into a corner of the 18d. box, and there saw “The Maid’s Tragedy,” a good play.
Coach, 1s.
play and oranges, 2s. 6d.
Creed come, dropping presently here, but he did not see me, and come to the same place, nor would I be seen by him. Thence to my Lord Crew’s, and there he come also after, and there with Sir T. Crew bemoaning my Lord’s folly in leaving his old interest, by which he hath now lost all. An ill discourse in the morning of my Lord’s being killed, but this evening Godolphin tells us here that my Lord is well.
Thence with Creed to the Cock ale-house, and there spent 6d.
and so by coach home, 2s. 6d.
and so to bed.

new flag
soft as the morning light

expecting wind music
I hear a cry

God goes to stay
at his pretty playhouse

tragedy and oranges drop
into the same old well

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: unfinished entry for Wednesday 15 April 1668

Miners

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Tuesday). Up betimes by water to the Temple. In the way read the Narrative about prizes; and so to Lord Crew’s bedside, and then to Westminster, where I hear Pen is, and sent for by messenger last night. Thence to Commissioners of Accounts and there examined, and so back to Westminster Hall, where all the talk of committing all to the Tower, and Creed and I to the Quaker’s, dined together. Thence to the House, where rose about four o’clock; and, with much ado, Pen got to Thursday to bring in his answer; so my Lord escapes to-day. Thence with Godage and G. Montagu to G. Carteret’s, and there sat their dinner-time: and hear myself, by many Parliament-men, mightily commended. Thence to a play, “Love’s Cruelty,” and so to my Lord Crew’s, who glad of this day’s time got, and so home, and there office, and then home to supper and to bed, my eyes being the better upon leaving drinking at night.
Water, 1s.
Porter, 6d.
Water, 6d.
Dinner, 3s. 6d.
Play part, 2s.
Oranges, 1s.
Home coach, 1s. 6d.

the last night of a mine
we all talk
of where to escape

love’s cruelty
a daytime office
a home to drink in

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: unfinished entry for Tuesday 14 April 1668

Poetry Blog Digest 2021, Week 18

Poetry Blogging Network

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. This week’s topics include (but are by no means limited to) graveyards, grieving, making art, flowers, gardening, literary community and the po biz, ghosts, podcasts, promoting new books, and ecopoetry. Enjoy.


This morning, I thought about writing a poem about Noah’s wife and cicadas who emerge after 17 years to mate for a month or two (or the whole season of summer).  I’m thinking of Noah’s wife and menopause and sweeping away the dried husks.

And my other inspiration: one of my Create in Me female pastor friends made this Facebook post about visiting a congregation to talk about South Carolina retreat centers:  “How wonderful to eat ice cream in a cemetery on a sunny day surrounded by all the saints.”

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, The Violence of Collision: Interstellar Space, Flannery O’Connor and Other Inspirations

I read Lucy Rose Cunningham’s recently published sequence sitting on a bench in a country graveyard this afternoon, with memorial stones in the foreground, and the Shropshire hills in the long view. I had a flask of Earl Grey and a bun to keep me company. My bicycle was propped next to me against the wall of the church. I was glad I’d set the context to become acquainted with this beautifully produced pamphlet from Broken Sleep Books. All credit to the publishers for its austere elegance.

I’ve learnt to look after my body as I’ve aged – in Cunningham’s Acknowledgements words – to know what this body really deserves. It’s an important rite of passage, and one to which Mary, Marie and Maria all have something to contribute. Others have illuminated this aspect of Cunningham’s work, so  I won’t repeat what they’ve written (I refer you, for example, to the Cardiff Review https://www.cardiffreview.com/review/a-rich-stirring-debut-for-mary-marie-maria/)

For my part, I chose this setting for reading because I wanted to listen hard to Cunningham’s voice – not to understand every line (I didn’t) but to loosen up, pay close attention to what I heard and felt. I found much to enjoy, and much to grieve, in doing so.

Liz Lefroy, I Review A Pamphlet – Lucy Rose Cunningham’s ‘For Mary, Marie, Maria’

This week since her death has flit by strangely. I spent time with my kids, both based in Philadelphia, before driving home. I’ve written a little: a poem my hairdresser dictated the title for (he’s both a literary person and wise about grieving, and the title is “First in Line for Takeoff”); some notes of my memories of her last days; her obituary; responses to condolence notes and gifts; this blog post and the last. I’m thinking about other writing-related work: submitting mss for the virtual Breadloaf Environmental conference in June and the live Sewanee workshop in May; the Mother’s Day promotion I was going to do for Unbecoming; a short article on Eliot due at the end of May; whether it would be consoling or ridiculous to try working on my creative mss-in-progress again. The book of essays I will deliver to Tinderbox Editions before too long–Poetry’s Possible Worlds is scheduled for November publication–currently ends with my mother’s recovery from her first bout with lymphoma in 2015. Does my coda need a coda? I can hardly bear to think about it. And, of course, I’m spending a lot of time doing nothing. There’s so much to think about and avoid thinking about. I’m most comfortable perched at an intellectual distance from big feelings, noticing how the people around me process it, for instance, and my own preference for matter-of-fact conversations about her death. That’s part of what makes me a writer–metaphor itself involves displacement as well as insight–but it can also be maladaptive.

Lesley Wheeler, Grief metaphors flying

Well into Spring, 
my jasmine is in bloom and soon 
there will be the first of the peach blossoms. 
A sliver of moon tonight, waning crescent, 
and only a slight breeze. 
1,487 nights since my son left this world.

James Lee Jobe, Are you ready to pass through?

And then he said something that I think is still changing me. He began to speak of a mutual friend, one we had lost some months previously, of how he was missing him: ‘Even with all that going on -and you know what this is like, having gone through it yourself- and with all the crap that is still going on, I still need to remind myself daily that a bad day at work is a day he won’t have.’

And that stopped me in my tracks. I began to find something pricking behind my eyes, the slightest increase of pressure in my temples, as though pushed by the gentlest of vices. My woes did not leave me, but I had the strong impression of seeing them from far away, as through a telescope from the wrong end. Mixed into this sensation was the pleasure, as well as the pain, of knowing that while the woes were in a different place, and that they were not going to vanish, I now had a choice about how to see them differently.

A day he won’t have. Like my friend, I need to say this to myself daily (sometimes hourly) when I sense the world and my feelings about its woes threatening to overwhelm me. Which is often. A day he won’t have.

Anthony Wilson, A day he won’t have

Yesterday an old woman almost died,
it took thirty-seven people
it took two hundred and fourteen messages
to get her to a hospital bed.
But she will be home in a week.
It will start with her.
We know.
We’ve won before.
It always starts with one person.
It always starts with one battle.
It always starts with one victory.
It always starts when the first person says no.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, It is war

Kept indoors over a year,
the Buddha’s hand: its leaves
whiten, unused to direct sun.

Luisa A. Igloria, Three Sketches

And I have been slowly working on another quilt about Park Wood in winter. Trees in cross-section, the space between them criscrossed with mycelial strands. Cotton cloth and silk thread, all dyed in a variety of botanical brews, some modified with iron-water. The circular patches are where I tied found beer-caps in. Some had rusted at the edge, giving a nice dark line. The bigger dark patches are where I tied in lumps of rusty iron from a bicycle half-buried in the wood.

[…]

what I’ve been missing is
stepping out
smelling human beings

everything has to be planned
Kate from two angles
diluted some ink and wrote it small

it will be something else
stitched on velvet
dropped into a window

Ama Bolton, ABCD May 2021

April also marked my first experience coordinating an event for the O, Miami Poetry Festival. The challenge in proposing a project for 2021: to what extent would people be interacting? How could we create something fun, but also safe?  I reached out to Neil de la Flor last fall (great poet, lives in Miami, always has interesting ideas), and something came up organically in conversation–that his family had a multi-generational business in floral deliveries. One thing led to another, and we partnered with SWWIM to curate a selection of poems inspired by flowers, which then went out in bouquets delivered by Dolly’s Florist.

My contribution, other than a general habit for task-mastering, was to conceive delivering the poems in origami form–something that could sit decoratively in a bouquet and invite unfolding as a tactile interaction. Since I turned out to be the only origami enthusiast on the team, this also meant the literal hunkered-down time of folding 150 pinwheels. Felt good to do something hands-on, since I couldn’t actually set foot in Miami. 

I’ve loved origami since I was a kid, taking classes on how to make cranes at the McLean Community Center. One thing I thought about as I worked in the (once again, very) early morning hours is how I used to try and rush through the preparatory folds; the moments in process when the paper has to be creased, then uncreased, to ease a later move. Younger Me thought that was a waste of time, that surely I could finesse the move without it. Older Me understands the necessity. Maybe there’s a metaphor in there somewhere. I’d like to think that the challenges of 2020 were, in a sense, preparatory folds for some great move ahead. […]

Perhaps this is a trite thing to say, but I do appreciate you coming by this blog. I don’t update it as often as I could, or should, or want to. But it’s a good, sturdy little tether that binds me to remembering the question of whether I would ever publish a book at all, and therefore how quintessentially lucky this life has been. I’m happy you’re here. 

Sandra Beasley, Poetry in Bloom

Spring has come to Montreal very slowly this year, which I like — it gives us time to adjust from our Canadian deep freeze, and to really enjoy the incremental changes each day brings. While friends further south were posting pictures of cherry blossoms and daffodils, we were still looking at snow…so it was lovely to have a florist call us and say there was a delivery. A friend had sent us flowers in honor of his OWN birthday — what an unexpected and beautiful gesture! This was the second of three bouquets we’ve enjoyed this spring, and it’s the one that I managed to sit down and draw, and then paint.

The drawing started out as pure line, but I felt that the shapes were just too complicated to read that way, so I added some shading while trying to keep it all fairly lively.

How different it feels in color! I like the drawing more, but I think most people would probably prefer the watercolor.

In any case, I appreciated the hours I spent looking at these flowers – a challenge for the artist, and a respite from the sadness of the world as so many people continue to suffer from the virus and the inequalities of access to care, medication, and vaccines. Please give a donation if you can: what would you have gladly paid for your own vaccination?

Beth Adams, Bouquets

I can’t say
what what I say

is worth,
the old monk said.

I just want
a bowl of soup.

Tom Montag, TEN OLD MONK POEMS (13)

Another Machado poem, “Tal vez la mano, en sueños…”:

in dreams maybe the hand
of the sower of stars
sounds the forgotten music

a note on an immense lyre
and that humble wave comes to our lips
in a few truthful words
___

The climbing yellow roses make their serpentine, parasitic way through the laurel, and dangle from the eaves. They’re not really roses and the laurel is not really a laurel, I’m told; they both have odd polysyllabic names in clumsily grafted classical tongues. But I’ll call them roses and laurel. It’s my damn hedge. The roses are gorgeous this year: apparently this ominously dry April suited them.

Dale Favier, Machado, Roses, Back Pain, and Covid

I dedicate a dandelion to Anna Jarvis who, having founded Mother’s Day, spent an entire lifetime trying to undo it.  Her success in 1914 quickly became overscented, oversweet, oversentimentalized by the profiteers of capitalism, and within years, she was desperate to put the cat back in the bag.  Keep it simple! she railed.  Boycott florists, squash the candy makers and card hawkers!  Stop the commercialism!  She exhausted her fortune to take back a name she  couldn’t quite claim – Mother’s Day?

Jarvis wanted to honor and respect a much more complex motherhood.  Rather than a delicately petalled flower, I see dandelion as Jarvis’ idea of mother.  Its burst of sun-like flower is charming, and the unsung tenacity of its weed with its jagged, tooth-shaped leaf and its deeply sourced taproot where its spiritual power lies.  The grit and vision of la durée, the everyday beauty of continuity, is packed into its whole.  It is “toothy” — dandelion is a corruption of the French “dents du lion.”  The feminine becomes gritty, determined, a fighter, what some might see as masculine energy while the masculine is often fragile.  Such are the truths in paradox. 

Of course, we can spy beauty in our mothers and sidewalk flowers often — like seeing dandelion when the afternoon sun comes glancing over rooftops and catches it in its jewel light.   I see wildness in its simplicity.  I see an outflow, a pouring of generosity. I am never one to scorn excess!  All the flowers I got this year have amazed me. So many beauties!  In the spirit of both/and, I gather the whole thing and offer it in thanks.

Jill Pearlman, The Rise and Fall of Mother’s Day

The other book I’ve been reading that made me think about poetic foremothers and influences is Three Martini Afternoons at the Ritz, all about the friendship/frenemyship of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. It provides a lot of background and context for their relationship. Besides making me jealous that I haven’t been meeting anyone at the Ritz for martinis, it made me think about the poets we read and pay attention to in our own lives, who we are secretly competing with (even if subconsciously,) who we read and let influence our own thoughts about poetry and poetics. I realize I am very lucky to be friends with so many wonderful poets, but I don’t really have a nemesis, per se. But maybe that’s okay. Do we need someone to compete with to reach our own potential? I think this is a very interesting question, because, especially as women are pressured NOT to be too competitive, at least in my generation.

But it does make me think about how writers need to encourage and push each other out of their comfort zones, and one way to make sure that happens is to make friends with diverse friends, some who are editors and publishers, who are full-time writers, who run their English departments, who have many different ways of writing and publishing, and many different voices. It reaffirms that we can all grow and learn and build our own unique paths. We don’t have to sound alike, or go to the same conferences, residencies, MFA programs, etc. There’s space for all of us.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Happy Mother’s Day, A Week of Birds, and Thinking About Our Poetic Mothers and Influences (and Who Will Parent Our Books?)

Last night I sat upstairs in the studio and tried to read. But the refrigerator E.’s daughter used when she used the upstairs space as an apartment was humming. I’m not sure humming is the right word. At first I thought someone was playing music downstairs. Or outside. I would have sworn I could almost catch the lyrics. Ghost-like and insubstantial, but definitely present. […]

My best friend took me up a 14-pointer in Colorado a few years ago. After about an hour we were quiet. It was meditative. I paid attention to my breathing. To the calm thoughts that passed through my mind. To my physical body, checking for altitude sickness.

Above the tree line, above the snow. Stones and wind, and a little bit of vertigo. It was exhilarating. Coming down I told her I felt like I’d had a glass of wine. Or two. Her teenage son was with us and he was giggling: “Me, too.”

I really would like to climb a mountain now. A really high mountain.

But I think about the refrigerator and its ghost music, and I wonder if what I need is to sit upstairs in the studio and listen. To breathe. To pay attention to my body, check for any sickness caused by a sudden shift in circumstances. To make out the lyrics. To write them down.

Ren Powell, The Songs of Ghosts

bullet train
we are far from home
little fly

Jim Young [no title]

What replenishes you? 

The term “self-care” has come to feel almost meaningless: it’s so ubiquitous, and so often misused. (A quick google search for the term yields returns like “How To Make Shopping A Healthy Self-Care Practice.” Hello, capitalism.) But we all need to replenish our inner reserves. That’s true even when there isn’t a global pandemic. 

Taking Shabbat off from working — and from the to-do lists, the news headlines, workday consciousness — replenishes me. My son and I were watching Adam Ruins Everything recently, and in the episode about work, Adam proposes that we have “labor unions and the Jewish people” to thank for the fact of Saturdays off. Indeed we do.

As the weather warms, signs of spring replenish me. The chives in the window-box on my mirpesset winter over each year, and they are one of the first things to green up when spring arrives. I just added a little sage plant and a little rosemary plant to that box. Their scent grounds and delights me, and they’re delicious, too.

Rachel Barenblat, Refill

I had a post all planned out two, or is it three weeks ago, but tiredness and life got in the way. The gist of the post was me attempting to connect the work I was doing in the garden that weekend to the construction of a poem.

I was building, and staining two planters and some trellis (NB Trellis was bought, but I made the planters) as you’ll see below.

I forget how exactly how I was going to make the connection, but it probably involved the idea of some sort of planning followed by making it up as you go along. (Yes, like these posts…)..or something about taking raw materials and shaping them into a finished product over time…Yeah, it was probably something as pretentious or as tenuous as that.

However, while I was putting the stain on I was listening to 2 of the excellent Alice Oswald lectures (the Interview with Water and Art of Erosion ones), an Episode of The Verb (on punctuation) and the Toast podcast with Fiona Benson being interviewed by the excellent Laura Barton (I recommend her writing and radio stuff, and her novel, Twenty-One Locks).

The Benson interview was fascinating, and among all of it one point really stood out where she mentioned that the idea of calling yourself a poet should be no less of an issue than being a plumber…And I think she’s bang on. I’m not doing her justice here, but that idea that being a poet is somehow a higher calling is one that I totally concur with.

It really hit home today as well as I was attempting to swap some taps over in my kitchen. I’ve got better at saying I write poetry/calling myself a poet, but there is never going to be a time when I can say I know anything about plumbing, let along call myself such a wondrous thing. Dear god, we’ve got it the wrong way round…These people need to be the ones on plinths…

Mat Riches, A plinth and a punch, the first in (almost) a month

The sun is shining and I’m going to be gardening this afternoon. The weather is becoming less glacial and I may even be able to plant out the tomatoes. Hurray! I feel my mood lifting. The diary for May and June promises much, it looks like Nick will be working again after 15 months of enforced layoff, and musical events are on the calendar again. Not before time. I was starting to find it hard to get out of bed and not succumb to dark thoughts. But at least the pool has reopened!

In fact, the last week or two have brought some brilliant moments – not least of which was Wednesday’s launch of Antony Mair‘s new Live Canon collection A Suitcase Filled with Hope. I was proud to be able to say a few words about Antony, in front of his friends and family and many, many fine poets in the audience. He is a very modest person, but with a big talent and a huge heart. I think this is his best book yet. Highly recommended.

Last week I met up with my Planet Poetry co-producer Peter Kenny and poet friend Charlotte Gann for a few beers in Lewes. A bit of rain didn’t put us off! This is the first time Peter and I have been able to meet properly since last November, and although we thought we might do some recording for the show, we ended up just socialising.

We’re really proud of Planet Poetry;  we’ve learned as we’ve gone along, made mistakes and haven’t quite reached BBC standard yet but hey! This week I attended some sessions of a Podfest Masterclass, and although the things I heard about how to take a podcast ‘up a notch’, promote it to a wider audience, make it easier to subscribe to etc wasn’t anything I didn’t know, it was a fantastic kick up the backside. As a result Peter and I now have a domain name, plans for a website and lots of ideas for the future. We’re currently working on Episode 14, due out next week and it’s all about poetry publishing. Looking at the list of previous episodes I’m reminded how much wonderful new poetry we’ve encountered, and how many fascinating poets and editors we’ve spoken with – most recently the eminent American poet LeAnne Howe.

Robin Houghton, Faith, hope and podcasting

Strangers is officially out there in the world and making things happen! […]

I’ve been able to do two interviews for the book, too – one audio and one in print. The spoken one was for Andrew French’s Page Fright podcast. Andrew has been good to me in the past, interviewing me last year (just pre-pandemic) about Best Canadian Poetry 2019 and What the Poets Are Doing. This time we talked about the new book, and all sorts of other stuff: creating community during a pandemic, how I like to read a poetry book, my superhero origin story, etc.

You can listen to/download/subscribe to the podcast here.

My second interview was with Michael Edwards, who runs the Red Alder Review. Michael has also been good to me in the past, publishing a haiku of mine just this January. We talked about both Strangers and haiku a good deal in the interview, among other topics. Most pleasing for me, Michael’s questions reached back over all four of my books, allowing me to take a bit of a long-view on my writing, and how its led me to this current book. 

You can give that interview a read here.

I’ve also been delighted to have Strangers appear in both CBC Books and 49th Shelf‘s Spring poetry roundups, and to see photos of the book appearing here and there on social media, the highest of these honours being Vicki “BookGaga” Ziegler handwriting a poem of mine in her journal (weighed down by the famous tiny pink dumbbell!) – a long held dream for any Canadian poet on Twitter.

Rob Taylor, Strangers in the wild!

This month I have been dazzled and overjoyed with the love and support from so many about my book, though at times, I have felt like that hand in the life ring on the cover of my book–drowning not waving. Or maybe I’m just looking for a high-five. 

I haven’t been this busy since pre-pandemic and in the busyness was neglectful of sharing that I have some wonderful readings coming up! 

Kelli Russell Agodon, Reading Calendar For Dialogues with Rising Tides / Kelli Russell Agodon

Those who follow my blogs, and perhaps particularly this one, will know that (in normal times) I enjoy watching Puffins as they move about on and off our coastal cliffs. I am thrilled to have one of my Puffin photographs on the cover of Neil Leadbeater‘s new poetry collection, published by Mervyn Linford of Littoral Press. David and I met Neil back in 2011 as fellow participants at Swansea’s First International Festival of Poetry, organised by Peter Thabit Jones of The Seventh Quarry Press (Swansea) with Stanley H. Barkan of Cross-Cultural Communications (New York).

This fine collection includes poems rooted in a variety of rural (e.g. Tarr Steps), coastal (e.g. Aldeburgh) and urban (e.g. Port of Tyne) landscapes. A compelling sense of musicality pervades much of Neil’s work, aided and abetted by a sprinkling of alliterations and allusions. I have been particularly enjoying the poem sequences … and the Puffin poem, of course!  

Caroline Gill, My Puffin Photograph on the Cover of ‘Reading Between The Lines’ by Neil Leadbeater

Toward the end of last week, I was feeling the not all too unfamiliar feeling (doubt? restlessness? ennui?) about my work (more specifically writing more than visual work). It comes and goes, that feeling that feels like spending your whole life shouting into a canyon that comes back with only your own echo, but I was feeling it by Friday and questioning everything. I don’t think it necessarily has to do with po-biz, and more maybe with a certain writerly loneliness in the world. I don’t need fancy pubs and awards and attention, but I do like to feel that my words are hitting some sort of mark out there in the universe. (Maybe not the mark I intended, but something at least.)

That canyon is so big, and so filled with other writers also shouting.  And also, there is this huge rushing whir that may be the wind, but may also be terrible very-real world things like raging pandemic attention spans and  a world that barely reads at all. I sometimes go back to a blog entry I wrote in 2010 about feeling completely and utterly creatively happy and fulfilled, which is especially funny considering my non-creative personal life was a shit show and my work life tolerable but undynamic. I also was barely writing, and it occurred to me, this may have been why I felt so happy.  I was anxious about it–the NOT writing, sure.  But while others were shouting, I was hiding in the bushes. Being ignored was okay because, really, I had nothing much to offer.  

In those years post MFA, I was devoting much more time to the etsy shop and visual things, and these felt like something people actually wanted, you know.  Not just things I was throwing out into the silence. These things took up time/energies later better spent on my own projects and the chapbook arm of the operations and eventually I scaled the retail end back in favor of these endeavors. These are a harder sell than paper goods, vintage, and jewelry–all things in high demand in those days when etsy was still small enough to forge a following. The output/reward system was more direct and involved less effort. So it could be that–the satisfaction in making things for which there is a demand in the world outside of poetry, which is so small but also large but sometimes highly capricious.  

Kristy Bowen, on writing and not writing

Hans Christian Andersen’s What One Can Invent merits a read. It’s part fable, part satire.

– There was once a young man who studied to become a poet. He wanted to be a poet by next Easter, so that he could marry and earn his living from poetry, which he knew was just a matter of making things up. But he had no imagination. He firmly believed he had been born too late. Every subject had been used up before he had a chance at it, and there was nothing in the world left to write about.

– He visits an old lady, who lived in a tiny gate-house i. She says “Just try on my spectacles, listen through my ear-trumpet, say your prayers, and please, for once in your life, stop thinking about yourself.” That last request was asking almost too much of him. It was more than any woman, however wise and wonderful, should demand of a poet.

– She shows him a potato, a blackthorn, a bee hive, then gets him to watch the people on the road. He has many ideas. But when he returns her ear-trumpet and spectacles, the ideas go. So she suggests “Write about those who write. To criticise their writing is to criticise them, but don’t let that trouble you. The more critically you write, the more you’ll earn, and you and your wife will eat cake every day.”

Tim Love, What One Can Invent

stacks of notebooks
like cordwood
fending
off the cold
paltry fire
barely big enough
to keep my fingers warm
so i can write
and count the pages
as they flutter
into the fire.

Jared A. Conti, Kindled

An amazing thing happened.

Last fall I sent a pile of newer poems to Middle Creek Press, hoping I might salvage something out of what little I wrote during our ongoing pandemic misery. Turns out that collection, titled Portals, won the 2020 Halcyon Poetry Prize. Wild, right?

What an honor to have Middle Creek publisher David Anthony Martin select my manuscript. This collection is packed with poems about sycamore leaves, gut bacteria, quicksand, protests, yeast, talking peonies, insects, inflation, and consequential strangers. […]

People seem to think a writer writes in isolation, pulled only by some invisible drive to assemble words into form. For years I felt that isolation acutely. Heck, I didn’t even admit I was writing and publishing poems until my first collection, Tending, was accepted by a small poetry press. All that time the work of other poets pulled me onward. Their poems nourished me and helped me recognize poetry is in us all.

When the publisher of my first collection told me to solicit blurbs by reaching out to poets I admired, the task seemed unimaginable. Approach a busy stranger, someone I’d deeply respected from a distance, then ask for a favor? A distinctly time-consuming favor? I was appalled. Maybe my book could be published with a blank back cover. Maybe I could pretend the blankness was some kind of artistic choice. Turns out that wasn’t necessary. Every poet I contacted was gracious, even the poets who turned me down. Their kindness introduced me to the kindness of the writing community. (There are unkind pockets too, but I’m too small potatoes to be affected.)

My next collection, Blackbird, continued to teach me just how beautiful the writing community can be. Writers go out of their way to amplify the work of other writers. They mentor, they share, they podcast, they teach.  Many dedicate their time to make literary journals, literary organizations, and literary events possible.

I am the recipient of these kindnesses and more.

Laura Grace Weldon, Portals: My Newest Book!

I’ve noticed a quotation making the rounds again by May Sarton from Journal of a Solitude — a book which in part inspired my own Calm Things back in the day). She says, “Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.”

Keep busy with survival, says Sarton, and we try, even though survival really is just imitating trees. How did she know?

And while you are doing this, it’s good to also be seeking out and making beautiful things. On beauty, Peter Schjeldahl said, “Beauty is, or ought to be, no big deal, though the lack of it is. Without regular events of beauty, we live estranged from existence, including our own.”

Beauty, in my opinion, right now, is actually a really big deal. And that’s because we are a little estranged from existence, at least I feel as thought I am.

Still, everything else goes on, and if you don’t follow my posts on Instagram, you might not know all that has been going on for me and my famjam this week. And it’s all great, wonderful, kind of amazing stuff really. Which at this time seems a bit exhausting? Ha. We’re loving it all, but it seems weird to be celebrating in the middle of a pandemic and all that. As we all are doing, and have done, amid everything else. The lows and the highs are intermingling in all new and surprising ways, aren’t they?

And so with all that, I still have my book on the horizon to look forward to, which is actually truly heart-bursting — to think that this can happen amid everything else these past two years. I have my incredible publisher Palimpsest Press to thank for just persisting and being so enthusiastic and kind and also really professional and efficient, which is something I really appreciate. Because it’s easy to forget how hard it is just to operate in normal ways in these intense times and that everyone has a life outside of their work that has become tricky in immeasurable ways. And so if you can keep work things fun and light in all this, well that is a balm and a boon.

Shawna Lemay, If Two People

My video Colony Collapse has been selected for an international on-line exhibition, Agency, hosted by Broto Art-Climate-Science in Boston. It’s associated with their conference on 15-16 May entitled Greetings, Earthing: How does global citizenship affect our climate response? As part of the conference, I’m also taking part in a discussion on Agency: Arts as Civics Teacher.

Curated by Margaret LeJeune, the show asks “What exists at the intersection of empowerment, the climate crisis, and radical empathy?  What does agency look like in a post-human world? And, can it be ascribed to non-human species, rivers and/or ecosystems?”

Ian Gibbins, Colony Collapse at Broto Art-Climate-Science: Agency

Amherst, Massachusetts poet and editor Dennis James Sweeney’s full-length poetry debut is In The Antarctic Circle (Pittsburgh PA: Autumn House Press, 2021), a book of absences and solitudes reminiscent of the geographic lyrics of Ottawa poet Monty Reid’s The Alternate Guide (Red Deer AB: Red Deer College Press, 1995), with both titles writing out alternate takes on specific geographic locales across a contained stretch. “Scan the snow for objects of love and wonder.” Sweeney writes, to open “74°0’S 108°30’W,” “Boil seal meat, stirring / with both arms.” For Reid, the boundaries of his specific map were the province of Alberta, and for Sweeney, he writes the Antarctic circle, but one as a space of shadows, legends and imprecisions. He writes an open space upon which the emptiness allows him to mark and remark as he wishes, putting on his own particular imprint, writing love, heart, hearth and environmental crisis. How does one love during a crisis? How does one allow a benefit of doubt? Even the shadows, one might say, betray. As “76°20’S 124°38’W” writes: “You will learn: Negative sixty degrees is not absolute zero. // You will learn: In a whiteout you cannot see shadows, but that does / not mean the edges are not there.”

rob mclennan, Dennis James Sweeney, In The Antarctic Circle

I wonder if we ever become allergic to ghosts or just the dirt that surrounds their graves.

When death arrives at our doorstep, I don’t imagine it bearing a beautiful bouquet as the living are generally the ones who lay fresh flowers upon graves.

The number of those who’ve passed away must surely outnumber my remaining brain cells. Eventually, those, too, will become dirt and dust. But not before I remember those who’ve left us.

Sometimes this world can break our hearts like a dog-whimper song.

Other times, our love ruckus is enough to remind the ghosts they need not be allergic to us.

Rich Ferguson, People Who’ve Died

the dog naps with a belly full of chicken
the cat naps with a belly full of mystery

one of the Marley kids is singing
through the Bluetooth speaker

I’m writing a poem, trying to freeze
a moment already lost to swift time

Jason Crane, POEM: movement

Low tide

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Monday).
Spent at Michel’s
6d.
in the Folly,
1s.
oysters,
1s.
coach to W. Coventry about Mrs. Pett
1s.
thence to Commissioners of Treasury, and so to Westminster Hall by water,
6d.
With G. Montagu and Roger Pepys, and spoke with Birch and Vaughan, all in trouble about the prize business. So to Lord Crew’s (calling for a low pipe by the way), where Creed and G. M. and G. C. come,
1s.
So with Creed to a play. Little Thief,
4s.
Thence towards the Park by coach,
2s. 6d.
Come home, met with order of Commissioners of Accounts, which put together with the rest vexed me, and so home to supper and to bed.

oyster out of water
I poke all about

a low way to lay
little thief

together with
the rest-vexed bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: unfinished entry for Monday 13 April 1668

Elated

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

News of Peace. Conning my gamut.

*

(Sunday). Dined at Brouncker’s, and saw the new book. Peace. Cutting away sails.

news
of peace

o I am sun in sand
the new cut in a sail

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: unfinished entries for Saturday 11 April and Sunday 12 April 1668

Unpenned

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Friday) All the morning at Office. At noon with W. Pen to Duke of York, and attended Council. So to piper and Duck Lane, and there kissed bookseller’s wife, and bought Legend. So home, coach. Sailor. Mrs. Hannam dead.

Friday off
o pen

tend to the books
if I am dead

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 10 April 1668

House-bound

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where all the morning sitting, then at noon home to dinner with my people, and so to the office again writing of my letters, and then abroad to my bookseller’s, and up and down to the Duke of York’s playhouse, there to see, which I did, Sir W. Davenant’s corpse carried out towards Westminster, there to be buried. Here were many coaches and six horses, and many hacknies, that made it look, methought, as if it were the buriall of a poor poet. He seemed to have many children, by five or six in the first mourning-coach, all boys. And there I left them coming forth, and I to the New Exchange, there to meet Mrs. Burroughs, and did take her in a carosse and carry elle towards the Park, kissing her and tocanda su breast, so as to make myself do; but did not go into any house, but come back and set her down at White Hall, and did give her wrapt in paper for my Valentine’s gift for the last year before this, which I never did yet give her anything for, twelve half-crowns, and so back home and there to my office, where come a packet from the Downes from my brother Balty, who, with Harman, is arrived there, of which this day come the first news. And now the Parliament will be satisfied, I suppose, about the business they have so long desired between Brouncker and Harman about not prosecuting the first victory. Balty is very well, and I hope hath performed his work well, that I may get him into future employment. I wrote to him this night, and so home, and there to the perfecting my getting the scale of musique without book, which I have done to perfection backward and forward, and so to supper and to bed.

where I sit writing
an ant’s corpse

carried out as if it were
the burial of a poor poet

I make myself a house
wrapped in paper

my Valentine’s gift
for the last year

a book done to perfection
for a bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 9 April 1668

Harmonious

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and at my office all the morning, doing business, and then at noon home to dinner all alone. Then to White Hall with Sir J. Minnes in his coach to attend the Duke of York upon our usual business, which was this day but little, and thence with Lord Brouncker to the Duke of York’s playhouse, where we saw “The Unfortunate Lovers,” no extraordinary play, methinks, and thence I to Drumbleby’s, and there did talk a great deal about pipes; and did buy a recorder, which I do intend to learn to play on, the sound of it being, of all sounds in the world, most pleasing to me. Thence home, and to visit Mrs. Turner, where among other talk, Mr. Foly and her husband being there, she did tell me of young Captain Holmes’s marrying of Pegg Lowther last Saturday by stealth, which I was sorry for, he being an idle rascal, and proud, and worth little, I doubt; and she a mighty pretty, well-disposed lady, and good fortune. Her mother and friends take on mightily; but the sport is, Sir Robert Holmes do seem to be mad too with his brother, and will disinherit him, saying that he hath ruined himself, marrying below himself, and to his disadvantage; whereas, I said, in this company, that I had married a sister lately, with little above half that portion, that he should have kissed her breech before he should have had her, which, if R. Holmes should hear, would make a great quarrel; but it is true I am heartily sorry for the poor girl that is undone by it. So home to my chamber, to be fingering of my Recorder, and getting of the scale of musique without book, which I at last see is necessary for a man that would understand musique, as it is now taught to understand, though it be a ridiculous and troublesome way, and I know I shall be able hereafter to show the world a simpler way; but, like the old hypotheses in philosophy, it must be learned, though a man knows a better. Then to supper, and to bed. This morning Mr. Christopher Pett’s widow and daughter come to me, to desire my help to the King and Duke of York, and I did promise, and do pity her.

I intend to learn the sound
all sounds sing

where you and I inherit a ruin
where half a kiss would undo me

music without music
to show the world a simpler way

like the old pot must know
a better supper

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 8 April 1668

Present tense

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and at the office all the morning, where great hurry to be made in the fitting forth of this present little fleet, but so many rubs by reason of want of money, and people’s not believing us in cases where we had money unless (which in several cases, as in hiring of vessels, cannot be) they be paid beforehand, that every thing goes backward instead of forward. At noon comes Mr. Clerke, my solicitor, and the Auditor’s men with my account drawn up in the Exchequer way with their queries, which are neither many nor great, or hard to answer upon it, and so dined with me, and then I by coach to the King’s playhouse, and there saw “The English Monsieur;” sitting for privacy sake in an upper box: the play hath much mirth in it as to that particular humour. After the play done, I down to Knipp, and did stay her undressing herself; and there saw the several players, men and women go by; and pretty to see how strange they are all, one to another, after the play is done. Here I saw a wonderful pretty maid of her own, that come to undress her, and one so pretty that she says she intends not to keep her, for fear of her being undone in her service, by coming to the playhouse.
Here I hear Sir W. Davenant is just now dead; and so who will succeed him in the mastership of the house is not yet known. The eldest Davenport is, it seems, gone from this house to be kept by somebody; which I am glad of, she being a very bad actor. I took her then up into a coach and away to the Park, which is now very fine after some rain, but the company was going away most, and so I took her to the Lodge, and there treated her and had a deal of good talk, and now and then did baiser la, and that was all, and that as much or more than I had much mind to because of her paint. She tells me mighty news, that my Lady Castlemayne is mightily in love with Hart of their house: and he is much with her in private, and she goes to him, and do give him many presents; and that the thing is most certain, and Becke Marshall only privy to it, and the means of bringing them together, which is a very odd thing; and by this means she is even with the King’s love to Mrs. Davis. This done, I carried her and set her down at Mrs. Manuel’s, but stayed not there myself, nor went in; but straight home, and there to my letters, and so home to bed.

where the present goes
backward instead of forward

I saw her dressing herself
to dress the dead

this kept body treated
all in paint

with art
with odd love

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 7 April 1668