Threshold

How young I am 
in the photograph,
flanked by family,
which is all I know
of the world. I don't
feel yet the light
humming in the vein,
the strobing 
at my temples,
the restlessness
of language beneath 
my ribs. If someone
had told me there was
more than one way out,
I wouldn't have
believed it. Everyone
I knew said marry,
though they were always 
guarding the door. 

	

Protestant work ethic

Up, and Sir W. Warren with me betimes and signed a bond, and assigned his order on the Exchequer to a blank for me to fill and I did deliver him 1900l.. The truth is, it is a great venture to venture so much on the Act, but thereby I hedge in 300l. gift for my service about some ships that he hath bought, prizes, and good interest besides, and his bond to repay me the money at six weeks’ warning. So to the office, where busy all the morning. At noon home to dinner, and there my brother Balty dined with me and my wife, who is become a good serious man, and I hope to do him good being sending him a Muster-Master on one of the squadrons of the fleete. After dinner and he gone I to my accounts hard all the afternoon till it was quite darke, and I thank God I do come to bring them very fairly to make me worth 5,000l. stocke in the world, which is a great mercy to me. Though I am a little troubled to find 50l. difference between the particular account I make to myself of my profits and loss in each month and the account which I raise from my acquittances and money which I have at the end of every month in my chest and other men’s hands. However I do well believe that I am effectually 5,000l., the greatest sum I ever was in my life yet, and this day I have as I have said before agreed with Sir W. Warren and got of him 300l. gift.
At night a while to the office and then home and supped and to my accounts again till I was ready to sleepe, there being no pleasure to handle them, if they are not kept in good order. So to bed.

a blank
for me to fill
is a great venture to venture

my service my brother my wife my God
my profits my money my chest my life
my sleep


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 3 April 1666.

Slaughter

~ after "The Slaughtered Ox," Rembrandt (1655)

    Katay is   the name for it   Meaning flayed
Tufted open   Inside          out After the fire
singes the hair off              flesh and the knife
makes its rapid                 zigzag through 
    the body's tent                     It is important          
to know what plunged                        into that humid
pit    The entire forearm                 scoured the depths 
  for every gift               the animal could surrender 
  The lungs' heaving bellows    Islands of spleen   The liver
pooling in a green      lagoon        With what should we anoint 
   the pearled clots in the viscera           A ladder
      of bones revealed     as the hand  flies up
to the mouth      More startled than     clumps of leaf
 pulling away                 from touch    From
    the anonymous     bodies dumped there
          night after night after night

 

Harried

Up, and to the office and thence with Mr. Gawden to Guildhall to see the bills and tallys there in the chamber (and by the way in the streete his new coach broke and we fain to take an old hackney). Thence to the Exchequer again to inform myself of some other points in the new Act in order to my lending Sir W. Warren 2000l. upon an order of his upon the Act, which they all encourage me to.
There walking with Mr. Gawden in Westminster Hall, he and I to talke from one business to another and at last to the marriage of his daughter. He told me the story of Creed’s pretences to his daughter, and how he would not believe but she loved him, while his daughter was in great passion on the other hand against him. Thence to talke of his son Benjamin; and I propounded a match for him, and at last named my sister, which he embraces heartily, and speaking of the lowness of her portion, that it would be less than 1000l., he tells me if every thing else agrees, he will out of what he means to give me yearly, make a portion for her shall cost me nothing more than I intend freely. This did mightily rejoice me and full of it did go with him to London to the ‘Change; and there did much business and at the Coffee-house with Sir W. Warren, who very wisely did shew me that my matching my sister with Mr. Gawden would undo me in all my places, everybody suspecting me in all I do; and I shall neither be able to serve him, nor free myself from imputation of being of his faction, while I am placed for his severest check. I was convinced that it would be for neither of our interests to make this alliance, and so am quite off of it again, but with great satisfaction in the motion.
Thence to the Crowne tavern behind the Exchange to meet with Cocke and Fenn and did so, and dined with them, and after dinner had the intent of our meeting, which was some private discourse with Fenn, telling him what I hear and think of his business, which he takes very kindly and says he will look about him. It was about his giving of ill language and answers to people that come to him about money and some other particulars. This morning Mrs. Barbary and little Mrs. Tooker went away homeward. Thence my wife by coach calling me at White Hall to visit my Lady Carteret, and she was not within. So to Westminster Hall, where I purposely tooke my wife well dressed into the Hall to see and be seen; and, among others, [met] Howlet’s daughter, who is newly married, and is she I call wife, and one I love mightily. So to Broad Streete and there met my Lady and Sir G. Carteret, and sat and talked with them a good while and so home, and to my accounts which I cannot get through with. But at it till I grew drowsy, and so to bed mightily vexed that I can come to no better issue in my accounts.

I take my portion of nothing
more than coffee
with the severest crow

I hear him giving ill language
to some other owl
drowsy and vexed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 2 April 1666.

Aria: Beginning

A winter wren warbles his song beside the spring-
       house--- meaning things have decided to open again,  
meaning those re-enactments of young and fragile.
       The sun is fitful, coming through openings of cloud. 
Or there are curtains of fog, heavy in the morning;
       milk and salt you can almost taste in the air.
But when white petals cover the trees, 
       it can also mean grief welling up alongside 
the new: sorrow of the unbearable, bringing
       you to your knees each time. Melody that starts
and breaks, that calls and calls with the body until
       it's bent from hurling itself into the open.
 
 


 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Bedside manner

(Lord’s day). Up and abroad, and by coach to Charing Cross, to wait on Sir Philip Howard; whom I found in bed: and he do receive me very civilly. My request was about suffering my wife’s brother to go to sea, and to save his pay in the Duke’s guards; which after a little difficulty he did with great respect agree to. I find him a very fine-spoken gentleman, and one of great parts, and very courteous. Much pleased with this visit I to White Hall, where I met Sir G. Downing, and to discourse with him an houre about the Exchequer payments upon the late Act, and informed myself of him thoroughly in my safety in lending 2000l. to Sir W. Warren, upon an order of his upon the Exchequer for 2602l. and I do purpose to do it.
Thence meeting Dr. Allen, the physician, he and I and another walked in the Parke, a most pleasant warm day, and to the Queene’s chappell; where I do not so dislike the musique. Here I saw on a post an invitation to all good Catholiques to pray for the soul of such a one departed this life.
The Queene, I hear, do not yet hear of the death of her mother, she being in a course of physique, that they dare not tell it her.
At noon by coach home, and there by invitation met my uncle and aunt Wight and their cozen Mary, and dined with me and very merry. After dinner my uncle and I abroad by coach to White Hall, up and down the house, and I did some business and thence with him and a gentleman he met with to my Lord Chancellor’s new house, and there viewed it again and again and up to the top and I like it as well as ever and think it a most noble house. So all up and down my Lord St. Albans his new building and market-house, and the taverne under the market-house, looking to and again into every place of building, and so away and took coach and home, where to my accounts, and was at them till I could not hold open my eyes, and so to bed.
I this afternoon made a visit to my Lady Carteret, whom I understood newly come to towne; and she took it mighty kindly, but I see her face and heart are dejected from the condition her husband’s matters stand in. But I hope they will do all well enough. And I do comfort her as much as I can, for she is a noble lady.

the sea is fine-
spoken and rough
a physician for the soul

I hear/do not hear it
again and again
in every place I could not
open my eyes


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 1 April 1666.

Poetry Blog Digest 2019: Week 14

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.

A lot of poets are writing a poem a day this month, and bloggers seem split between those willing to share their rough drafts and those who prefer to post already published pieces instead. I’ve shared snippets of both sorts of poems below, and I defy anyone to identify without clicking through which are which. (Please note that if I’ve shared a quote from a poem that you plan to later take down so that you can submit it somewhere, shoot me an email or message me on Twitter so I can erase the evidence here!) Also in the mix: musings on language and poetry, surviving the AWP, and working in collage and other media and genres. And I love Amy Miller’s Poetry Month project of writing about a favorite poem every day, in posts that are the perfect bloggish blend of the personal and the analytical.


I took this week off from work and have spent most of it writing poems, writing poetry reviews, setting up a new website for publishing poetry chapbook reviews, submitting poems, writing poems. Sort of a trial run for retirement. I can’t wait to have more time to write, more control over my schedule, more reading, writing, reviewing poetry.

For the something-ith year (10th I think) I am writing a poem-a-day for April. After a couple of poems, I realized that I am writing a sonnet cycle. I am excited about this!

Risa Denenberg, Sunday Morning Muse is Poetry Month with a Vegan Twist

I will blame the blueness in the sky
the berries fallen and crushed under feet, seeds carried away by wind

the plain breasted bird on a dying tree.
Sun soaks through everything, stitches specialness into the ordinary

Uma Gowrishanker, where poems hide

Not named for the coarse open fabric of flags,
but named after sifting seeds,
after  blue dye from hairy blooms of the legume family
in India, Indigo Buntings flash,
hue of the portion of the visible spectrum from blue to violet
evoked in the human observer
by radiant energy,
by iridescence in flight.

Anne Higgins, In the hand of the bander

Isn’t it funny how the words super and superb are so close to each other orthographically, and close in meaning, and yet one is considered plebian while the other is a lofty, almost snobbish choice?

Super: 1) of a high grade or quality; 2) very large or powerful.

Superb: 1) marked to the highest degree by grandeur, excellence, brilliance or competence.

It’s almost as if back in 1802, someone who couldn’t handle consonant clusters downgraded superb to super, stripping away the ‘grandeur, excellence’ etc.

Sarah J. Sloat, I open my mouth and there it is

A poet
might vajazzle a cloaca with ommatidia
just because they like the sparkle and bounce of the words, but
trust me, you do not want to see those words put together.
Pray they don’t add a sprinkling of blastomeres for some cleavage,
or knit neuroglia over biofilm for a net
to scrunch into a purple nictitating membrane. What
it comes down to is no one quite wants a poet’s body.

PF Anderson, On Making Beautiful Monsters

Poets don’t assume a thing is just a thing—they look beyond the obvious truths for the truths that require more digging. And that comes to the second thing Keita said that I wrote down in my notebook: “the impulse to research changes everything.” I underlined that three times, because that is such a powerful truth about poetry, writing poetry, and the urge to create. Creating isn’t so much about making something new as it is finding new ways to experience the old (or the things that already exist). [M. Nzadi] Keita went on to talk about the world as multiple words, and the need to acknowledge and sort through the many layers of it. This, she said, is a de-centering experience, and poets thrive on that de-centering.

Grant Clauser, Not Taking for Granted: Notes on Why Poetry

Read “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild” in the online journal Jellyfish Review here.

This hybrid poem/prose piece by Kathy Fish, published in the online journal Jellyfish Review just after the mass shooting at the Route 21 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, went viral in October 2017. When I read it at the time, it gave me shivers. The poem stuck with me, particularly those last few hair-raising lines.

But by the time I came back to this poem a few months ago, in my mind it had grown; I remembered it as being a long, list-y poem. So I was surprised to read it again and find that it’s actually very short, concise, even lean—and I think that’s one of its great strengths, the fact that it can start out so larky, sweet, offhand, and then so quickly take that dark turn at the end. Its whiplash is swift and sure. I also love the fact that it’s not exactly a poem, though many regard it as one; it’s a great example of the flexibility of hybrid forms. This is one of those poems that make me think anything is possible with words.

Amy Miller, 30 Great Poems for April, Day 4: “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild” by Kathy Fish

When you have a rabbi for a daughter
sometimes you get texts from the hearse.
You must have known what I was doing:
reminding myself that I still had a mother,
bracing against — well, now: not being able
to reach you to talk about purses or friends
as the cemetery’s energy slowly drained.

Rachel Barenblat, Texts from the hearse

The walls are thin, transparent.
Angels stand at right angles.
I close my eyes to see the bees
breaking and entering. Honeycomb
dipped in sorrow. Eyeballs
rolling like grapes on my palm.
I see a handful of pennies fallen
through the grate. Shallow sludge,
the refuse of a city feigning sleep.

Romana Iorga, Falling Asleep with Carpenter Bees

The bottomland rose up behind you,
a hard, broken ripening.
You sewed yourself by thirds out of your softness,
holding all of you out of the sun
to feel yourself settle in.
You ran into the bottomland’s cloudy eye.

Charlotte Hamrick, Stones & Moss

The woman holds inside herself
for nine months the evolving child
and every moment is one of multiplying,
expending energy during the wait
which may result in either life
or death. Even the Zen place of repose
requires breath: action, inhalation,
oxygenation, illumination. Notice:
this morning, the plum trees blossomed.

Ann E. Michael, Patience

It rained at Spring Equinox, and
A beautiful quiet filled the house
In the dark just before sunrise;
There was only the sound of the rain
And my wife yelling for more
Toilet paper.

James Lee Jobe, ‘It rained at Spring Equinox, and’

Strange to navigate the busy waters of the Cork International Poetry Festival, and then the very next week–from a distance, via social media–watch writers navigate the even busier waters of the AWP Conference in Portland, Oregon. I managed to photograph every reader I saw in the Cork Arts Theater, except for closing night when my phone died. (Note that this happened mid-email. So I spent an agonizing twenty minutes wondering if I was standing up Kim Addonizio. Luckily, she got the message and made her way to Cask to meet up for dinner.) The downside of the phone dying is that I can’t show you Kim’s awesome shoes, or the sweet interplay between Billy Collins and Leanne O’Sullivan, a rising star of Irish poetry who had received the Farmgate Café National Poetry Award earlier in the week. The upside is that I was able to relax and fully inhabit those moments. 

Sandra Beasley, Teaching (& Festival-ing!) in Cork

The next morning I woke up brighter and more alert and ready to take on my Friday, which included the first event: a book signing for PR for Poets at the Two Sylvias Booth, where I got to visit with my beautiful editors, Kelli Russell Agodon and Annette Spaulding-Convy – really well attended, thanks to everyone who came by and bought books! It was a wonderful opportunity to chat – albeit briefly – with some people I have been friends with online for literally over a decade! I could hardly breathe because I was hugging so many people. Really, I love doing readings and panels, but hugging your friends is the best part of AWP, or telling someone how much their book meant, or thanking editors/publishers. It’s the people that make the event what it is. Swag is terrific, but human interaction between writers is even better.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Happy Poetry Month! And AWP Report, Part I: Welcome to Portland! Disability Readings, Disability Issues, and Seeing Writers in Real Life

One of my favorite poetry publishers, in fact, they’re my dream publisher, is Write Bloody. They publish amazing poets and poetry that constantly inspires and awes me. And so of course I stopped by their table at the book fair. As I flipped through books I chatted with the woman standing beside me. It wasn’t till she walked to the other side of the table that I realized I’d been talking to the author of the book I held in my hands. So of course I bought the book and snapped a picture with Seema Reza. And, as it turns out, she’s a local DC poet and she’ll be at an upcoming Readings on the Pike so I’ll get to see her again soon!

I went to a panel titled, How We Need Another Soul to Cling To: Writing Love Poems in Difficult Times. During that panel I heard, for the first time, Meg Day, read their poems. Let me just say, the poems Meg read completely wowed me. After the reading I fangirled over Meg and they were kind enough to take a picture with me. *swoon* Seriously, I may have fallen in love a little bit, they are that amazing.

And absolutely worth mentioning – the time I spent with my friends, connecting with fellow writers, sharing meals and glasses of wine, attending readings together. The camaraderie rejuvenated me and my heart was filled.

Courtney LeBlanc, I Survived AWP

I know some people go to AWP to network, to roam the Book Fair, to attend off-sites and book-signings, and to hear the keynote speakers. These are important reasons, and I’ve done my share. However, my main reason for spending the time and money that AWP requires is to get ideas for writing and/or teaching. To that end, I have a process I’ll share with you.

As soon as I get home, I get out my notebook and the conference program. For each panel I attended, I locate the panel description in the program, and then I write down the title, the date, and the names of the people who gave the panel. Then I write. After I fill up a page or two, I highlight anything that stands out. Then I look for connections, circling that which seems related.

For example, I attended a panel titled “Mind-Meld: Re-imagining Creative Writing and Science.” As I wrote, I remembered that panelist Adam Dickinson stated that he’d used himself as a science experiment. He talked about the psychological stress of testing himself daily to see what chemicals and bacteria lurked within his body. He also mentioned that serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for well-being, is made in the gut. As you can see from the page in my notebook, I connected this idea to others I’d remembered from the panel: [Click through to view the photo.]

Erica Goss, Getting the Most Out of AWP

A week ago, I’d be waking up in Portland, eating a hearty breakfast, getting ready to figure out the mass transit system to make my way to the Convention Center.  As I think back over all the AWP sessions I attended, the one that made me want to ditch the rest of the conference to approach my writing in a new way was the one on Intersections of Poetry and Visual Art at 10:30 on Thursday.

My brain had already been thinking about this possibility (see this blog post from December, for example). […]

It made me want to return to some poems and see if parts of them might make good sketching prompts.  I was interested in the process of the poets at the AWP session.  As you might expect, they approached the intersection of visual art and poetry from a variety of angles:  some of the poets and artists worked in true collaboration, in some the words came first and then images, and then one woman worked more as a collage artist. 

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Intersections of Poetry and Visual Art

Influenced by a Winston Plowes poetry workshop a couple of weeks ago (see previous post ‘Butterflies of the Night‘), the work of poet and artist Helen Ivory, and the boxes of Joseph Cornell, here’s my latest composite fiction. [Click through for the photo.]

I’ve used the found text I am devoted to nobody but myself as a starting point, then created a series of paper butterflies using copies of a photograph of myself taken when I was 19. Although I’ve worked with a single photograph, each butterfly is unique. The whole thing has been incredibly time-consuming but utterly absorbing. Partly, it’s been a problem-solving exercise, and that’s good because it’s made me think in a different way. It’s been a case of literally thinking outside the box!

Julie Mellor, I am devoted to nobody but myself

By summer 2004, I was going all in on visual exploits, and it coincided with the very beginnings of the press, so I was designing the first few covers as well. I took a summer collage workshop at the Center for Book & Paper (it kills me this no longer exists, I was considering another ill-advised masters degree if they still offered it to bone up on my bookmaking skills.)  By 2008 or so, I’d also made quite a bit of money selling originals, prints, and paper goods online–far more than I will probably ever make as a writer.  I had finally found the medium that did not depend on me having to render anything perfectly at all.   In having to struggle with how I expected something to look vs. how it ended up looking.  With collage, so much is happenstance, depending on what bits and pieces you have available.

I’ve mentioned before, how the form actually also changed me as a writer, in my approach to composition. The poems I wrote in late 2004 and early 2005 were written very different from the poems I was writing before and were far better for it.  Writing, which I’d always approached as a very serious endeavor with an intended aim in mind, a point of success or failure,  became much more..well..FUN.  Collages (and by proxy poems)  are more this wild territory where anything can happen, I don’t really know what I will get, and therefore, am always usually pretty happy with the results. Even my adventures in other mediums, the ones I most enjoy, have a certain experimental approach–abstract watercolors, nature prints, ink painting. What happens tends to happen and it’s the discovery that is always the best part. (I could easily say this about most of my writing these days as well.)  Sometimes the mistakes and trip-ups are the most interesting elements. Sometimes, they lead to other possibilities or change the course of the river.

Sometimes, I truly have no idea where I am going or what will come of it.  It’s actually kind of awesome…

Kristy Bowen, wild territory | adventures in collage

I was just putting together some notes for a poetry workshop I’m giving to the general public in April, which is, of course “poetry month.” I would not usually offer a “poetry” workshop. Rather the workshops I have offered ask people to just think creatively and imaginatively and not worry about what genre comes out.

In my intro notes to this workshop (the host organization said I could “do anything I wanted but it had to be focused on poetry”) I want to say something like what this article said, the idea of letting the work figure out its own form. This is part of the mysterious process of making.

Marilyn McCabe, Make Me an Angel; or, On Not Committing to a Genre

Tikbalang Haibun

I've said Please may I each time I've passed, strewn bits of bread and sugar
at the foot of the tree, careful not to touch the bristling bark. I've worn
my shirt inside out, tucking the gleam of buttons away from light. Shouldn't
the journey be over by now? Shouldn't it get easier? Shouldn't I have found
my way years ago? But here I am again, returned to the same familiar ground:
every stone slippered in moss, the fences peeling, the shed falling down.
My pockets are nearly empty of coin, my lashes stenciled in salt and dust.
Every roof has a chimney and all of them smoke; and yet you look for me
in each house.

Shafts of light comb 
through leaves on the trees.
Their heads remain unruly.

Perplexed

All the morning at the office busy. At noon to dinner, and thence to the office and did my business there as soon as I could, and then home and to my accounts, where very late at them, but, Lord! what a deale of do I have to understand any part of them, and in short do what I could, I could not come to any understanding of them, but after I had throughly wearied myself, I was forced to go to bed and leave them much against my will and vowe too, but I hope God will forgive me, for I have sat up these four nights till past twelve at night to master them, but cannot.
Thus ends this month, with my head and mind mighty full and disquiett because of my accounts, which I have let go too long, and confounded my publique with my private that I cannot come to any liquidating of them. However, I do see that I must be grown richer than I was by a good deale last month.
Busy also I am in thoughts for a husband for my sister, and to that end my wife and I have determined that she shall presently go into the country to my father and mother, and consider of a proffer made them for her in the country, which, if she likes, shall go forward.

could I understand
what I could not stand

forced to go to bed and give
the night a night
to master my mind

unfounded as a country
made for war


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 31 March 1666.

Postcard to myself in a bad marriage

Walls were made for stopping fists
and paychecks were for squandering.
Shirts dried stiff on the line 
after bleaching. You left, you
always left, slamming every door
on the way out. The bed slid across
the floor and the child sitting on it
clutched at the blankets. I couldn't 
hear the voice in my head for all
the noise. I couldn't see the moon
following me on the road as I searched
for something I'd lost long before.
An owl called out in the dark. Or
perhaps it was me, asking.