Signs of the times

Up and to the office, where Sir W. Coventry come to tell us that the Parliament did fall foul of our accounts again yesterday; and we must arme to have them examined, which I am sorry for: it will bring great trouble to me, and shame upon the office. My head full this morning how to carry on Captain Cocke’s bargain of hemp, which I think I shall by my dexterity do, and to the King’s advantage as well as my own. At noon with my Lord Bruncker and Sir Thomas Harvy, to Cocke’s house, and there Mrs. Williams and other company, and an excellent dinner. Mr. Temple’s wife; after dinner, fell to play on the harpsicon, till she tired everybody, that I left the house without taking leave, and no creature left standing by her to hear her. Thence I home and to the office, where late doing of business, and then home. Read an hour, to make an end of Potter’s Discourse of the Number 666, which I like all along, but his close is most excellent; and, whether it be right or wrong, is mighty ingenious. Then to supper and to bed.
This is the fatal day that every body hath discoursed for a long time to be the day that the Papists, or I know not who, had designed to commit a massacre upon; but, however, I trust in God we shall rise to-morrow morning as well as ever.
This afternoon Creed comes to me, and by him, as, also my Lady Pen, I hear that my Lady Denham is exceeding sick, even to death, and that she says, and every body else discourses, that she is poysoned; and Creed tells me, that it is said that there hath been a design to poison the King. What the meaning of all these sad signs is, the Lord knows; but every day things look worse and worse. God fit us for the worst!

I fall on the ice
at house number 666

the wrong bed is ours
for a long rust

tomorrow comes to me
and says that she is poison

that a sign is the meaning
of a sad god


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 10 November 1666.

Life cycle

Up and to the office, where did a good deale of business, and then at noon to the Exchange and to my little goldsmith’s, whose wife is very pretty and modest, that ever I saw any. Upon the ‘Change, where I seldom have of late been, I find all people mightily at a losse what to expect, but confusion and fears in every man’s head and heart. Whether war or peace, all fear the event will be bad. Thence home and with my brother to dinner, my wife being dressing herself against night; after dinner I to my closett all the afternoon, till the porter brought my vest back from the taylor’s, and then to dress myself very fine, about 4 or 5 o’clock, and by that time comes Mr. Batelier and Mercer, and away by coach to Mrs. Pierce’s, by appointment, where we find good company: a fair lady, my Lady Prettyman, Mrs. Corbet, Knipp; and for men, Captain Downing, Mr. Lloyd, Sir W. Coventry’s clerk, and one Mr. Tripp, who dances well. After some trifling discourse, we to dancing, and very good sport, and mightily pleased I was with the company. After our first bout of dancing, Knipp and I to sing, and Mercer and Captain Downing (who loves and understands musique) would by all means have my song of “Beauty, retire.” which Knipp had spread abroad; and he extols it above any thing he ever heard, and, without flattery, I know it is good in its kind. This being done and going to dance again, comes news that White Hall was on fire; and presently more particulars, that the Horse-guard was on fire; and so we run up to the garret, and find it so; a horrid great fire; and by and by we saw and heard part of it blown up with powder. The ladies begun presently to be afeard: one fell into fits. The whole town in an alarme. Drums beat and trumpets, and the guards every where spread, running up and down in the street. And I begun to have mighty apprehensions how things might be at home, and so was in mighty pain to get home, and that that encreased all is that we are in expectation, from common fame, this night, or to-morrow, to have a massacre, by the having so many fires one after another, as that in the City, and at same time begun in Westminster, by the Palace, but put out; and since in Southwarke, to the burning down some houses; and now this do make all people conclude there is something extraordinary in it; but nobody knows what. By and by comes news that the fire has slackened; so then we were a little cheered up again, and to supper, and pretty merry. But, above all, there comes in the dumb boy that I knew in Oliver’s time, who is mightily acquainted here, and with Downing; and he made strange signs of the fire, and how the King was abroad, and many things they understood, but I could not, which I wondering at, and discoursing with Downing about it, “Why,” says he, “it is only a little use, and you will understand him, and make him understand you with as much ease as may be.” So I prayed him to tell him that I was afeard that my coach would be gone, and that he should go down and steal one of the seats out of the coach and keep it, and that would make the coachman to stay. He did this, so that the dumb boy did go down, and, like a cunning rogue, went into the coach, pretending to sleep; and, by and by, fell to his work, but finds the seats nailed to the coach. So he did all he could, but could not do it; however, stayed there, and stayed the coach till the coachman’s patience was quite spent, and beat the dumb boy by force, and so went away. So the dumb boy come up and told him all the story, which they below did see all that passed, and knew it to be true. After supper, another dance or two, and then newes that the fire is as great as ever, which put us all to our wit’s-end; and I mightily [anxious] to go home, but the coach being gone, and it being about ten at night, and rainy dirty weather, I knew not what to do; but to walk out with Mr. Batelier, myself resolving to go home on foot, and leave the women there. And so did; but at the Savoy got a coach, and come back and took up the women; and so, having, by people come from the fire, understood that the fire was overcome, and all well, we merrily parted, and home. Stopped by several guards and constables quite through the town, round the wall, as we went, all being in armes. We got well home; and in the way I did con mi mano tocar la jambe de Mercer sa chair. Elle retirait sa jambe modestement, but I did tocar sa peau with my naked hand. And the truth is, la fille hath something that is assez jolie. Being come home, we to cards, till two in the morning, and drinking lamb’s-wool. So to bed.

a fire on fire
blown up into uncommon fame

fire in the people
something nobody knows

fire under our own seats
pretending to sleep

fire gone out on foot
naked and thin


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 9 November 1666.

Opinion columnist

Up, and before I went to the office I spoke with Mr. Martin for his advice about my proceeding in the business of the private man-of-war, he having heretofore served in one of them, and now I have it in my thoughts to send him purser in ours. After this discourse I to the office, where I sat all the morning, Sir W. Coventry with us, where he hath not been a great while, Sir W. Pen also, newly come from the Nore, where he hath been some time fitting of the ships out. At noon home to dinner and then to the office awhile, and so home for my sword, and there find Mercer come to see her mistresse. I was glad to see her there, and my wife mighty kind also, and for my part, much vexed that the jade is not with us still. Left them together, designing to go abroad to-morrow night to Mrs. Pierces to dance; and so I to Westminster Hall, and there met Mr. Grey, who tells me the House is sitting still (and now it was six o’clock), and likely to sit till midnight; and have proceeded fair to give the King his supply presently; and herein have done more to-day than was hoped for. So to White Hall to Sir W. Coventry, and there would fain have carried Captain Cocke’s business for his bargain of hemp, but am defeated and disappointed, and know hardly how to carry myself in it between my interest and desire not to offend Sir W. Coventry. Sir W. Coventry did this night tell me how the business is about Sir J. Minnes; that he is to be a Commissioner, and my Lord Bruncker and Sir W. Pen are to be Controller joyntly, which I am very glad of, and better than if they were either of them alone; and do hope truly that the King’s business will be better done thereby, and infinitely better than now it is.
Thence by coach home, full of thoughts of the consequence of this alteration in our office, and I think no evil to me. So at my office late, and then home to supper and to bed.
Mr. Grey did assure me this night, that he was told this day, by one of the greater Ministers of State in England, and one of the King’s Cabinet, that we had little left to agree on between the Dutch and us towards a peace, but only the place of treaty; which do astonish me to hear, but I am glad of it, for I fear the consequence of the war. But he says that the King, having all the money he is like to have, we shall be sure of a peace in a little time.

in my private war pen and sword
come together to dance

like a desire not to offend
and full-on evil

so grey this night this day
that had little to astonish me


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 8 November 1666.

Poetry Blog Digest 2019: Week 46

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.

Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in, but this week, poetry bloggers seemed especially off-beat. Which isn’t to say I didn’t still find some common themes: morning meditations, anecdotes about sharing poetry in public, discussions of book covers, and appreciations for poets of unvarnished originality, among others. Enjoy.


I have been awake since 4:30 this morning listening to the rain caught in a bit of fairy magik during the quiet that happens when waking after my guts feel sorry and strained then calm it’s still dark one or two cats purring at my feet or near my side the day has not yet intruded my email goes untended the house is settled the day still out of reach shiny as a wrapped present and I read a little bit usually the online version of The Paris Review or some other journal to the blue glow of my iPad this is when my brain works at maximum flow this is the time in which I should write but more often than not I just lie in bed under my snow white comforter and bask until the owls hoo their wake up question I don’t know when exactly I became a morning person I think it must have been when the composer disbanded the orchestra and I stopped going to rehearsals every Tuesday at 7 pm then went out after to The Berkshire Grill with everyone until very late then woke too early to get to work on time I used to practice at night and write at night inside my most creative self but now that I have the forest and the sea to care for mornings have become touchstones they have become magik the fairy time in between sleep and solid wakefulness

Rebecca Loudon, The blue hour

The fish rejects my worm, the old dog does not wish to be petted by me, and my perfectly tended tomato plants yield amazingly few tomatoes. I am learning, through much trial and error, to not take life personally. Looking up, I notice that the sky is the same shade of blue as the eyes of my grandmother, Rosemund.

James Lee Jobe, ‘The fish rejects my worm, the old dog’

… a free verse of peeling paint,
the rust working in silence. 

Claudia Serea, The locked door

When you write a poem that resembles a spell, prayer, charm, curse, or blessing, are you trying to make something happen, and if so, what or how?

That’s what we talked about on the Uncanny Activisms panel I organized for the C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference last weekend (the conference as a whole was wonderful, especially the keynote by Camille Dungy). “We” from left includes Hyejung Kook, Jane Satterfield, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Anna Maria Hong, Ashley M. Jones, and yours truly, talking with her hands again. Some brilliant tidbits I scribbled down from this brilliant cohort: Ashley remarking that all poems are spells; Anna Lena responding that spell-poems are the poemiest kind of poem, and speaking about how poems help us focus attention; Jane musing about shape-shifting through reading and writing, and how poetry can be a means to power, sometimes as an alternative when legal recourse isn’t working; Hyejung talking about poetry as an act of transformation (and about Icelandic fart curses, which I have yet to look up). I LOVED this conversation and it seems as if others did, too, which made me happy, as if we might be a small band of spellcasters setting out to fix the world through verse. If you want to join the effort, check out the amazing prompts I gathered from these writers for a pretty handout (less prettily listed below). We will be soliciting uncanny activist work for a future issue of Shenandoah, but for the moment, note that poetry subs open today (11/15-12/15), and there’s a special prize for Virginia poets: $1000 for the Graybeal-Gowan award, no entry fee, judged by Beth and me. Everything submitted will be considered for general publication as well as the prize. I’m excited to start reading but also a little worried about managing the deluge. My novel galleys just came in, and my students need lots of conferences this time of year, and I’m trying to squeeze in time to apply for book promotion opportunities…oy.

Lesley Wheeler, Uncanny paneling

restaurant 
the curry waiter sparkles
i too write poetry

Jim Young (untitled haiku)

One afternoon we were meeting with our French colleagues at L’ecole Militaire and because we have a joint project with them, we wanted to get to know each other a little bit better. We went around the room stating our name, our background, and something interesting about ourselves. When it was my turn I stated the required information and then stated that I was a published poet with a new book coming out in March 2020. Few of my US colleagues knew this and certainly none of my French colleagues did so everyone was quite surprised.

That evening, after our required social event — which had us drinking champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres while enjoying a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower — my colleagues and I settled into the hotel bar for another drink.

My colleagues inquired about my poetry and I told them a little about my book, Beautiful & Full of Monsters, and about my poetry in general. Then someone asked a question they may have ultimately regretted: “Can you read us some of your poems?”

Never one to shy away from reading poetry, I told them I would read a poem that had been published that very day, Did Not, published by Dovecote. They fell into a hush when I started reading and then the look of surprise and on some faces – shock – stared back at me. I continued with Butcher, which was a finalist in Furious Gazelle’s 2019 Spring Writing Contest. And then I laughed and said, “I’ll read you a lighter one!” and read To My Ex Who Asked if Every Poem was About Him. By the time I finished most sat in stunned silence. Yes, I could have eased them into my poetry with poems that are a little less intense…but that’s not really what I write and I’m proud of these poems and think they’re a good representation of what I write. I mean, if you’re going to jump into poetry you may as well do it head-first.

Courtney LeBlanc, Then Paris, Always Paris

If you have anything in print, always always always carry a couple of copies of it wherever you go! Naturally the best source of sales is at poetry readings and open mic events, but I’ve sold two copies of my pamphlet and one of the audiobook version on two different train journeys. I’ve sold one at an art exhibition I attended to support a friend. Yesterday I went to a conference about how technology is being used and developed in the treatment of Type 1 diabetes. I lost my sight and have a kidney transplant as the result of diabetic complications and, still being a bit of a geek, I like to know what technological devices are currently available and might soon be available. Diabetes Cymru allocated two sighted guides to meet me from the taxi and help me to the auditorium and out again to get my lunch. As we talked before the first speaker, I mentioned that I wrote poetry … ‘Just a moment,’ I said, ‘I have a copy of my pamphlet in my bag!’ … first sale ensued :) Then while I was talking to her and the man she was at the time talking to, she told the man I wrote poetry,
‘Oh really? That’s marvellous … can I see a copy?’
Indeed you can, sir! Sale number two! Those two sales paid for my taxi ride home ;) I live in the poetry economy ;)

Giles L. Turnbull, Poetic Hangings

When I send out poems for publication I look for a trifecta of things (+2) that have made me happy in the past. Do you have a list of things that make you go through the permutations of cover letter, bio, final revisions of revised poems? The longer I do this, the longer this whole process seems to take. And that’s why when I find a magazine like December, it makes me want to share the news!

1. Most importantly, the magazine must be physically gorgeous. Call me shallow but I do judge a journal by its cover. And its font, quality of paper, layout. I want to know that a good deal of care and yes, love, went into the making of this object. There are 1,000s of literary journals publishing today. You get to choose where to send your work. The poem you perhaps worked on for years deserves the best!

2. In this world, I want my poems to also have some on-line presence. While December selects a few poems to place on their website (and mine wasn’t one of them this time) they do have a user friendly site. At the end of this post I will share the beginnings of the the two poems I published in their recent issue so you can get a sense of their taste although the journal a a whole showcases diverse talents and tastes. As an aside, The Baltimore Review publishes every poet on-line and in an annual journal. I should say, however, that their annual journal is not as elegant as December. But they also pay in gift cards!

3. Cool fellow poets. This one’s self explanatory. I love being in the same issue with friends or poets that I look up to. My poet friends and I are always trading sources and so it’s imperative to read the journal before you send them your work!

4. Payment. Yes, I want to be compensated for my work in the exchange material that our culture values. And no, $20 for a poem is not an hourly fee. I don’t believe anyone who writes poetry does it for the money. (Okay I once met a Zimbabwean poet who told me he was getting rich off his poetry but that’s a different story.) I worked on “Binocular Vision” for many years and so even a small check feels as if the world is valuing my poem a little more. I did come across a press recently that gives all their books away for free as long as the reader makes a donation to an organization of her choice or passes the book along. I like this model, too — although the funding must be all donations?

5. And this last one might be a bit more controversial. I look for a woman editor. Thank you Gianna Jacobson! Yes, gender matters. In my decades and decades of sending work to journals and being published in all 50 states, I’ve noticed that women editors tend to be more communicative, more generous in offering small but important edits, and more interested in my work. I know there are many exceptions to this statement. For example, Rick Barot at New England Review and Peter Grimes at Pembroke Magazine are two exemplary editors and people.

Susan Rich, 5 Things to Look for When Sending Out Your Work: December

The rejections keep coming, difficulties pop up when you’re least expecting them, but I’m trying to keep focused on the occasional acceptance or bit of good news. I wait for the days when the rain stops, so I can rake the carpet of leaves that still covers the lawn. I remind myself that I have a pamphlet coming out next year. I’m getting more teaching jobs, adding a new school this week. I try to make things to look forward to, I’m planning a short holiday with some friends. I keep on writing poems whenever I can. Forward momentum. 

And on the pamphlet, I’ve been looking at artwork for my cover. I have no firm ideas, I have feelings and themes, but staring at Pixabay isn’t getting me anywhere. I’ve also contacted a photographer about getting my author photo done. Ahh, too real. 

Gerry Stewart, The Ups and Downs of Writing Life

Diane [Lockward]: I recall that the first image we seriously considered for the cover of Sugar Fix was a single slice of red velvet cake on a plate floating in air. It initially seemed perfect for your book which several times references red velvet cake. We both loved that image. I enhanced the colors, then muted them. I worked up several sample covers. You did too, but we ended up not using the image. Tell us why we had to abandon it.

Kory [Wells]: I am quite taken with the work of Charles Keiger, and as you say, his red velvet cake was so tempting to use. On his blog he even says that the painting to him is about nostalgia and longing, two themes that  occur in Sugar Fix. Ultimately, though, the image didn’t pass my gut check. Although some of the poems in the book turn toward darkness, the painting felt too moody for the collection as a whole. Some might consider this a poor aesthetic, but I wanted a cover that simply made me feel happy when I looked at it.

Diane: I recall that you next zeroed in on the art of Janet Hill. What attracted you to her work?

Kory: I’d discovered Janet Hill not too long ago when I was adding images to my Pinterest board “The Art of Reading,” paintings that show people engaged with books. To me, much of Hill’s work is a delightful combination of romantic and quirky; they feel vintage and yet contemporary. Her paintings have a charm that seems very Southern (although Hill lives in Ontario) and are at times darkly comic. I like to think all those same descriptions apply to Sugar Fix.

Diane Lockward, Finding the Right Cover Art for Your Poetry Book

I have been settling back into press duties after the upheaval, and despite occasionally not being able to find things–tape, the staples, covers for books in progress–shuffled during the move, things are going well. […]

I am still battling printers, of which I am less than happy with the cover finishes, and am shopping for a good color laser with a smooth finish-I have my eye on a Canon ImageClass model that seems to be more what I’m looking for (the Brother is good for insides, but the color seems a little chalkier than I like.).  Meanwhile, I have a stock of the last covers printed on the Lexmark for the latest titles before I tossed it and the little Epson inkjet, which works for some things and has a scanner/copier if I need it. But I need the new probably within the next week as I run out.

I am also just happier to be working at a more efficient, but still more leisurely pace than my studio time used to allow. Now, if I can’t finish something before I go to bed, it’s easy to make time in the morning, and not lose a whole day until I can get back to it. So much progress was stalled by limited time, by stops and starts, and while it took me a long time to admit that I really had to do what I had to do, I am certain it was the best decision. The stranglehold of never having sufficient time in the workspace that I’ve felt for the last 12 years has eased a bit, and already I feel like I am the better for it. 

Kristy Bowen, dgp notes | november edition

It took some time for me to figure out how I wanted to capture my thoughts on what I’m reading as part of my 100 books in 12 months project. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to slow down enough to write formal reviews, I decided to use a reading notes format where I keep a list of thoughts as I read, quote some lines that knock my socks off and include links to reviews and poems from each book.

While doing that for Donna Vorreyer’s Every Love Story Is an Apocalypse Story, I stumbled upon her non-traditional book review of Amorak Huey’s Boom Box.

The review is a sketch. That’s it. That’s the whole thing.

And I loved it.

She tells us a lot about the book with quick impressions and short quotes and, of course, an image that aligns with the book’s title. She sketched a cassette tape along with the folded, detailed card stock inserts that — back in *my* day — served as “album” cover for the cassette… and lyrics, if we were lucky.

Donna’s nontraditional book review delighted me, as I was already curious about inventive ways to respond to the books we read. I had written a nontraditional review to an essay collection a couple years back, but I had no idea what else was out there. With this blog post, I attempt to correct that.

Carolee Bennett, book reviews with unexpected style

This week, I’m reflecting on Kyna Leski‘s marvelous little book The Storm of Creativity. How to describe this text? It’s written by someone who teaches architecture as well as designs spaces, and who reads across disciplines and thinks both deeply and widely. It is not a how-to book; more of a how-it-works book. I learned of this book through Deborah Barlow (in 2015!) and finally have gotten around to reading it.

Leski uses the analogy of a storm system, from moisture in the ground or bodies of water through the gathering of the storm organizing itself into, say, a hurricane, and takes the process all the way through to dissipation (a kind of “death”) and restarting the cycle, when what we have is new again–and will not be exactly the same next time. […]

Here’s the thing: she captures the process as I myself experience it. I keep re-reading sections of this book and nodding in recognition. I am not the sort of person who spends much time analyzing creativity; I prefer to read how other people analyze the process and decide whether their reflections or analyses dovetail with my own. In this case, yes. For me, anyway, the creative process organizes like a storm.

The gathering part of the work coincides with that aspect of writing that I call observing. Gathering is a good word for it (Leski uses denotations and etymology as she defines her process, so that appeals to me, too). There’s a phrase my relatives used referring to someone daydreaming or loafing reflectively: “woolgathering.” Despite this interesting inquiry into the appropriateness of the phrase to mean loafing or daydreaming, in our family it meant daydreaming. I used to think the phrase referred to watching clouds–one of my favorite activities as a child–because clouds often look like wool. At any rate, woolgathering’s essential to my writing practice.

And sometimes, those clouds collect together, and create a storm.

Ann E. Michael, Storms

The poem that I was somewhat more satisfied with last week underwent another procedure this weekend, and is again transformed. It’s interesting what time and distance will do in providing solutions to tricky poems. One of my co-workers recently ask me how my poetry was going, as she knows I have a reading coming up soon, and I told her that it was going okay, but that writing poems isn’t the sort of thing that you can do effectively on a strict production schedule. I’m finally starting to accept that poems evolve, ever so slowly and in their own time, and pushing the process is almost never effective. Part of the strain for me is this entirely self-created pressure to ensure that I have something “new” to read, because I feel like such a failure for not have written much poetry over the last few years. But I am trying to let go and trust in the poems to reveal what they need to bloom.

Kristen McHenry, I Miss Cats, Anatomy of A Poem, Puttin’ Some Stank on It

I hear the tick of drips off my metal roof onto the deck, somewhere a low hum of a machine in the neighborhood, far off a rumble of a truck just discernible, the leaves are moving outside my window but I can’t hear their titter in here. I hear the steady jangle of my tinnitus in one ear. Now the truck is gone. Now I hear the dehumidifier in the basement kick in. More drip drip from the roof. This sounds like noise on the page, but feels like quiet to me. Most of the year my neighborhood is blessedly quiet. […]

I wonder if this is why I was drawn to poetry: the importance of silence in it, the tension between sound and silence that often resolves in a sound spoken into and reverberating in silence, and then dying away, leaving silence (or the post-poem moo) once again, replacing the noisy self, at least for a moment.

I need silence. It’s a visceral thing sometimes. […]

I’ve been experimenting in my poetry with placing white on the page among words. We had an interesting conversation about this at my recent writing retreat — how do you decide where the space goes in such a setting? Natural pauses, deliberate choices to withhold information or make the reader wait, and some instinct about what words or phrases could use the kind of emphasis that silence around them can provide was our best guess at an equation for such decisionmaking.

Sometimes I fear it makes the poem look too self-conscious on the page. Ooh, look at me all spread out here. But mostly I like it. It eases me somehow to allow some light and space into these poems I’ve been working on, and even imposing them on old poems in revision. Nothing worse than a poem that barks at you from the page, incessant, tied to a pole in the backyard.

Marilyn McCabe, So Quiet in Here; or, In Praise of Silence in Poetry

I was at a poetry reading at the The Albert Poets on Thursday. It was a room full of people who loved Mark Hinchcliffe. Mark had been in intensive care for days, surgeons fighting for his life after his liver transplant. At some point in the evening, his wife texted his close friend, Stephanie Bowgett, to say that Mark had died. At the end of the evening, Steph gave us the news. We’d all lost someone important to us, and something irreplaceable. I’ve known Mark for six years or so, sharing so many Monday evening workshops, listening to yet another of his remarkable poems arrive in the world. I guess most of you won’t know his work. But Ted Hughes did. That’s recommendation enough, I think. […]

This is what another of the Albert Poets, Carola Luther, wrote about Mark’s work. She puts it better than I can.

“Mark Hinchcliffe writes love poems, praise poems and poems of lamentation and devotion…these are not ironic poems. They weave myth into both the dark and the everyday with a seriousness and attention that could be prayer”

The phrase that really nails it for me is these are not ironic poems. Nor are they naive or innocent or playful, though they might be any or all of these things. I said at the start there are things I just don’t ‘get’ and I should end by saying there are things I think I ‘get’ but can’t explain. I just know that I keep re-reading these poems because they keep puzzling me.

I find it unbelievable that there will be no more of them. But those cats , those hares, The Green Man, the mermaids and foxes are out there, now, and always will be. A boy who looks for aeroplanes on the moors is out there too. You may meet him out on the cottongrass millstone Pennines. Give him good day.

John Foggin, Out of the ordinary.

Anne Barngrover wrote in her debut book, with simply smashing imagery. “I feel like a wasps nest nailed to a door, all the stingers dried to rose thorns.”  This was another Mary (knows how to pick them) Biddinger find. The book, Brazen Creature.

Loving, losing,  and all that happens in-between in these poems. Each is bold and unapologetic. Each is brazen. It could be in some ways a feminist manifesto. 

Metaphor is not lost on the revenge of the brown recluse. “Our hearts are nothing//but lies and lilac bruises. Old friend, we both want/each other dead tonight.” This collection of poems was like an emotional workout. I want more of her work to read!

Michael Allyn Wells, Confession Tuesday: My 2019 Poet Crush Six Pack

I posted a post on Facebook about coming to the realization, as I was doing poetry submissions of my poems and books, that perhaps my poetry is not going to be for everyone. Here’s what I wrote:

“Sometimes when I’m doing poetry submissions I get insight into why not everyone wants to publish my poetry: it’s funny, but in a dark way; the worldview is pretty depressing; it’s environmental, but not in a warm-and-fuzzy way, more in a mother-nature-is-a-scary-avenging angel way. It’s feminist, but also not in an easy, “dancing in a circle celebrating menses” way. I mean, I write love poems, but not a ton. Anyway, I recognize I’m not an easy, feel-good poet. I’m not a Netflix holiday romantic comedy. I get it. I’m the indie movie your film friend recommended and then you’re like “Why did she make me see that?” But still, I’ll probably try knocking at your door, poetry editors…”

When Sylvia Plath complained in her letters and journals about not getting publishing enough or not getting recognition, she doesn’t seem to realize her writing might be off-putting to the conservative patriarchal poetry world that was on the rise in her lifetime – her husband was being actively encouraged by T.S. Eliot for goodness’ sake, while she could barely get a mentor. Virginia Woolf, before Sylvia, suffered because she lacked getting enough critical attention for her ground-breaking fiction – but her style is just now being recognized as genius and ground-breaking. I just read in a British magazine that Daphne du Maurier – one of my favorite gothic fiction writers from my childhood – is regaining a reputation as a fine literary writer after years as being denigrated as a writer of trashy horror/romances and PhD students are newly studying her archives. I read an article about Margaret Atwood where she talked about self-publishing her first book of poetry and  hand-selling it to bookstores; she didn’t write The Handmaid’s Tale, which shot her to fame, until she was in her forties – my age, in fact. I mean, my writer heroines – such as they are, a motley crew – have never really had an easy time of it, especially early, even if they had more success than I’ve had in my lifetime yet. So I’ve got to remember that my writer heroines struggled and suffered and continued to write and send out their work even in an unfriendly hour, at an unfriendly time.  I will continue to write what I write and send it out into the world, hoping it will find its audience.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Notes from November, How to Cheer Yourself Up and Stave Off SAD, and Surviving Being an Idiosyncratic Woman Writer

This morning, I wrote a poem.  I’d like to say that I wrote a poem, as I do every morning.  But I don’t do that every morning.  I wonder if I would wrest more meaning from life if I did write a poem every morning.  I suspect I would have a similar reaction as I do to liturgical seasons.  Some of my poetry writing mornings would feel important and significant, but many more would leave me wondering about the larger meaning of it all and reflecting on drudgery.

This morning I baked the gluten free communion bread.  It needs to be made on the day of the worship service because of the nature of gluten free bread; I know from experience that it doesn’t freeze well.  As I stirred together the ingredients, this line came to me:  On the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, I bake the communion bread.  Once I got the bread in the oven, I sat down to write.

I played with the line–should it be bake or create?  The idea of Hildegard of Bingen bubbled up in my brain–a creative woman of her time, a woman I see as subversive, although I don’t know that she saw herself that way.  I wanted to hear some of her music, and we live in a wonderful age where the Internet can provide.  I spent some time writing my poem and listening to this group sing the medieval music of Hildegard of Bingen.

I was struck by the woman with the green swoosh in her auburn hair and the chunky boots visible from the slit of her formal gown singing the music written by a monastic woman centuries earlier.  What would Hildegard have said?

I like to think of Hildegard of Bingen smiling at the many ways we’ve seized her legacy and taken up her mantle.  Some of us do that by writing, the way that she did.  Some of us have seized her mantle by singing the music that she left us.  Some of us tend our gardens, the ones we grow for food, the ones we grow for herbs, the ones we grow for the beauty of the flowers, the interior gardens that we may or may not share.  Some of us take on the Hildegard’s mantle when we scold bishops and legislators and remind them of the obligation of creating a more just society.  We wear Hildegard’s mantle as we care for the next generations, some of whom we’re related to biologically, some of whom we will never meet.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, The Last Sunday in Ordinary Time: Hildegard of Bingen’s Mantle

Into the lives of the wealthy and weary, the healthy and homeless, buddhists, brawlers, and churchgoers with shoes spit-shined to Sunday. Into the hearts of families and friends, caretakers and gravediggers, the warring, wounded, and those rolling along on rackety wheels of glad. Into the eyes of dogs and drunks, landlords and store clerks, the old, infirm, and young lovers loud and lavish at the borderlands of yes—the new glow of this lighted living sun.

Rich Ferguson, Another Day in L.A.

Monochrome

Up, and with Sir W. Batten to White Hall, where we attended as usual the Duke of York and there was by the folly of Sir W. Batten prevented in obtaining a bargain for Captain Cocke, which would, I think have [been] at this time (during our great want of hempe), both profitable to the King and of good convenience to me; but I matter it not, it being done only by the folly, not any design, of Sir W. Batten’s. Thence to Westminster Hall, and, it being fast day, there was no shops open, but meeting with Doll Lane, did go with her to the Rose taverne, and there drank and played with her a good while. She went away, and I staid a good while after, and was seen going out by one of our neighbours near the office and two of the Hall people that I had no mind to have been seen by, but there was no hurt in it nor can be alledged from it. Therefore I am not solicitous in it, but took coach and called at Faythorne’s, to buy some prints for my wife to draw by this winter, and here did see my Lady Castlemayne’s picture, done by him from Lilly’s, in red chalke and other colours, by which he hath cut it in copper to be printed. The picture in chalke is the finest thing I ever saw in my life, I think; and did desire to buy it; but he says he must keep it awhile to correct his copper-plate by, and when that is done he will sell it me.
Thence home and find my wife gone out with my brother to see her brother. I to dinner and thence to my chamber to read, and so to the office (it being a fast day and so a holiday), and then to Mrs. Turner’s, at her request to speake and advise about Sir Thomas Harvy’s coming to lodge there, which I think must be submitted to, and better now than hereafter, when he gets more ground, for I perceive he intends to stay by it, and begins to crow mightily upon his late being at the payment of tickets; but a coxcombe he is and will never be better in the business of the Navy. Thence home, and there find Mr. Batelier come to bring my wife a very fine puppy of his mother’s spaniel, a very fine one indeed, which my wife is mighty proud of. He staid and supped with us, and they to cards. I to my chamber to do some business, and then out to them to play and were a little merry, and then to bed.
By the Duke of York his discourse to-day in his chamber, they have it at Court, as well as we here, that a fatal day is to be expected shortly, of some great mischiefe to the remainder of this day; whether by the Papists, or what, they are not certain. But the day is disputed; some say next Friday, others a day sooner, others later, and I hope all will prove a foolery. But it is observable how every body’s fears are busy at this time.

I would draw
this winter in chalk
but for a crow


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 7 November 1666.

Icy

Up, and to the office, where all the morning sitting. At noon home to dinner, and after dinner down alone by water to Deptford, reading “Duchesse of Malfy,” the play, which is pretty good, and there did some business, and so up again, and all the evening at the office. At night home, and there find Mr. Batelier, who supped with us, and good company he is, and so after supper to bed.

ice sitting
on water
an evening at home


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 6 November 1666.

Blizzard

(A holyday). Lay long; then up, and to the office, where vexed to meet with people come from the fleete at the Nore, where so many ships are laid up and few going abroad, and yet Sir Thomas Allen hath sent up some Lieutenants with warrants to presse men for a few ships to go out this winter, while every day thousands appear here, to our great trouble and affright, before our office and the ticket office, and no Captains able to command one-man aboard.
Thence by water to Westminster, and there at the Swan find Sarah is married to a shoemaker yesterday, so I could not see her, but I believe I shall hereafter at good leisure. Thence by coach to my Lady Peterborough, and there spoke with my Lady, who had sent to speak with me. She makes mighty moan of the badness of the times, and her family as to money. My Lord’s passionateness for want thereof, and his want of coming in of rents, and no wages from the Duke of York. No money to be had there for wages nor disbursements, and therefore prays my assistance about his pension. I was moved with her story, which she largely and handsomely told me, and promised I would try what I could do in a few days, and so took leave, being willing to keep her Lord fair with me, both for his respect to my Lord Sandwich and for my owne sake hereafter, when I come to pass my accounts.
Thence to my Lord Crew’s, and there dined, and mightily made of, having not, to my shame, been there in 8 months before. Here my Lord and Sir Thomas Crew, Mr. John, and Dr. Crew, and two strangers. The best family in the world for goodness and sobriety. Here beyond my expectation I met my Lord Hinchingbroke, who is come to towne two days since from Hinchingbroke, and brought his sister and brother Carteret with him, who are at Sir G. Carteret’s. After dinner I and Sir Thomas Crew went aside to discourse of public matters, and do find by him that all the country gentlemen are publickly jealous of the courtiers in the Parliament, and that they do doubt every thing that they propose; and that the true reason why the country gentlemen are for a land-tax and against a general excise, is, because they are fearful that if the latter be granted they shall never get it down again; whereas the land-tax will be but for so much; and when the war ceases, there will be no ground got by the Court to keep it up. He do much cry out upon our accounts, and that all that they have had from the King hath been but estimates both from my Lord Treasurer and us, and from all people else, so that the Parliament is weary of it. He says the House would be very glad to get something against Sir G. Carteret, and will not let their inquiries die till they have got something.
He do, from what he hath heard at the Committee for examining the burning of the City, conclude it as a thing certain that it was done by plots; it being proved by many witnesses that endeavours were made in several places to encrease the fire, and that both in City and country it was bragged by several Papists that upon such a day or in such a time we should find the hottest weather that ever was in England, and words of plainer sense. But my Lord Crew was discoursing at table how the judges have determined in the case whether the landlords or the tenants (who are, in their leases, all of them generally tied to maintain and uphold their houses) shall bear the losse of the fire; and they say that tenants should against all casualties of fire beginning either in their owne or in their neighbour’s; but, where it is done by an enemy, they are not to do it. And this was by an enemy, there having been one convicted and hanged upon this very score. This is an excellent salvo for the tenants, and for which I am glad, because of my father’s house.
After dinner and this discourse I took coach, and at the same time find my Lord Hinchingbroke and Mr. John Crew and the Doctor going out to see the ruins of the City; so I took the Doctor into my hackney coach (and he is a very fine sober gentleman), and so through the City. But, Lord! what pretty and sober observations he made of the City and its desolation; till anon we come to my house, and there I took them upon Tower Hill to shew them what houses were pulled down there since the fire; and then to my house, where I treated them with good wine of several sorts, and they took it mighty respectfully, and a fine company of gentlemen they are; but above all I was glad to see my Lord Hinchingbroke drink no wine at all. Here I got them to appoint Wednesday come se’nnight to dine here at my house, and so we broke up and all took coach again, and I carried the Doctor to Chancery Lane, and thence I to White Hall, where I staid walking up and down till night, and then got almost into the play house, having much mind to go and see the play at Court this night; but fearing how I should get home, because of the bonefires and the lateness of the night to get a coach, I did not stay; but having this evening seen my Lady Jemimah, who is come to towne, and looks very well and fat, and heard how Mr. John Pickering is to be married this week, and to a fortune with 5000l., and seen a rich necklace of pearle and two pendants of dyamonds, which Sir G. Carteret hath presented her with since her coming to towne, I home by coach, but met not one bonefire through the whole town in going round by the wall, which is strange, and speaks the melancholy disposition of the City at present, while never more was said of, and feared of, and done against the Papists than just at this time. Home, and there find my wife and her people at cards, and I to my chamber, and there late, and so to supper and to bed.

it is winter
and we speak
with passionate hands

in the world beyond
there will be no ground
that is not white

I go bone by bone
through the whole
strange city


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 5 November 1666.

Warrior

(Lord’s day). Comes my taylor’s man in the morning, and brings my vest home, and coate to wear with it, and belt, and silver-hilted sword. So I rose and dressed myself, and I like myself mightily in it, and so do my wife. Then, being dressed, to church; and after church pulled my Lady Pen and Mrs. Markham into my house to dinner, and Sir J. Minnes he got Mrs. Pegg along with him. I had a good dinner for them, and very merry; and after dinner to the waterside, and so, it being very cold, to White Hall, and was mighty fearfull of an ague, my vest being new and thin, and the coat cut not to meet before upon my breast. Here I waited in the gallery till the Council was up, and among others did speak with Mr. Cooling, my Lord Chamberlain’s secretary, who tells me my Lord Generall is become mighty low in all people’s opinion, and that he hath received several slurs from the King and Duke of York. The people at Court do see the difference between his and the Prince’s management, and my Lord Sandwich’s. That this business which he is put upon of crying out against the Catholiques and turning them out of all employment, will undo him, when he comes to turn-out the officers out of the Army, and this is a thing of his own seeking. That he is grown a drunken sot, and drinks with nobody but Troutbecke, whom nobody else will keep company with. Of whom he told me this story: That once the Duke of Albemarle in his drink taking notice as of a wonder that Nan Hide should ever come to be Duchesse of York, “Nay,” says Troutbecke, “ne’er wonder at that; for if you will give me another bottle of wine, I will tell you as great, if not greater, a miracle.” And what was that, but that our dirty Besse (meaning his Duchesse) should come to be Duchesse of Albemarle? Here we parted, and so by and by the Council rose, and out comes Sir G. Carteret and Sir W. Coventry, and they and my Lord Bruncker and I went to Sir G. Carteret’s lodgings, there to discourse about some money demanded by Sir W. Warren, and having done that broke up. And Sir G. Carteret and I alone together a while, where he shows a long letter, all in cipher, from my Lord Sandwich to him. The contents he hath not yet found out, but he tells me that my Lord is not sent for home, as several people have enquired after of me. He spoke something reflecting upon me in the business of pursers, that their present bad behaviour is what he did foresee, and had convinced me of, and yet when it come last year to be argued before the Duke of York I turned and said as the rest did. I answered nothing to it, but let it go, and so to other discourse of the ill state of things, of which all people are full of sorrow and observation, and so parted, and then by water, landing in Southwarke, home to the Tower, and so home, and there began to read “Potter’s Discourse upon 666,” which pleases me mightily, and then broke off and to supper and to bed.

silver-hilted sword
like a cold slur
against all seeking

I grow drunk
and drink with nobody
but you

no miracle
that dirt should come
to the rose

lodging in that cipher
the present is what
I foresee


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 4 November 1666.

Printing press

This morning comes Mr. Lovett, and brings me my print of the Passion, varnished by him, and the frame black, which indeed is very fine, though not so fine as I expected; however, pleases me exceedingly. This, and the sheets of paper he prepared for me, come to 3l., which I did give him, and though it be more than is fit to lay out on pleasure, yet, it being ingenious, I did not think much of it.
He gone, I to the office, where all the morning to little purpose, nothing being before us but clamours for money: So at noon home to dinner, and after dinner to hang up my new varnished picture and set my chamber in order to be made clean, and then to the office again, and there all the afternoon till late at night, and so to supper and to bed.

is love a print of passion

is the frame so fine
we exceed the sheet

are amours made clean again
at night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 3 November 1666.

Fruitcake recipe

Up betimes, and with Sir W. Batten to Woolwich, where first we went on board the Ruby, French prize, the only ship of war we have taken from any of our enemies this year. It seems a very good ship, but with galleries quite round the sterne to walk in as a balcone, which will be taken down. She had also about forty good brass guns, but will make little amends to our loss in The Prince.
Thence to the Ropeyarde and the other yards to do several businesses, he and I also did buy some apples and pork; by the same token the butcher commended it as the best in England for cloath and colour. And for his beef, says he, “Look how fat it is; the lean appears only here and there a speck, like beauty-spots.”
Having done at Woolwich, we to Deptford (it being very cold upon the water), and there did also a little more business, and so home, I reading all the way to make end of the “Bondman” (which the oftener I read the more I like), and begun “The Duchesse of Malfy;” which seems a good play.
At home to dinner, and there come Mr. Pierce, surgeon, to see me, and after I had eat something, he and I and my wife by coach to Westminster, she set us down at White Hall, and she to her brother’s. I up into the House, and among other things walked a good while with the Serjeant Trumpet, who tells me, as I wished, that the King’s Italian here is about setting three parts for trumpets, and shall teach some to sound them, and believes they will be admirable musique. I also walked with Sir Stephen Fox an houre, and good discourse of publique business with him, who seems very much satisfied with my discourse, and desired more of my acquaintance.
Then comes out the King and Duke of York from the Council, and so I spoke awhile to Sir W. Coventry about some office business, and so called my wife (her brother being now a little better than he was), and so home, and I to my chamber to do some business, and then to supper and to bed.

take forty brass apples
pork and beef fat
pears like cold little trumpets

teach them the discourse
of rot and sin and supper


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 2 November 1666.