Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 13

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. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack.

This week—the last before NaPoWriMo madness descends—had poets blogging about surreal fragments in walnut ink, pantsers vs. plotters, ectoplasmic connection, combinatory play, an ancient math teacher, a cracked cathedral, and much more. Enjoy.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 10

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. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack.

This week: panic needles, jellyfish tentacles, the poem as a begging bowl, mixed mental arts, and more. Enjoy.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 9

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. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack.

This week: the shadows of children, a different kind of faith, ellipses like off-ramps, poets as secret agents, and much more. Enjoy.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 1

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. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack.

The first digest of 2024 is a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short. (And yes, I know that expression dates me. I am an old.) Ten inches of snow fell and then were partly washed away again as I compiled this post today, which is quite Janus-faced: half looking back and half looking forward, half summarizing and half summoning. Let’s begin.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Weeks 51-52: Holidaze edition

Poetry Blogging Network

Happy 2024! This edition of the digest—a personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond—takes us from the winter solstice to New Year’s, with year-end summary posts, favorite books, and plans for the year ahead as well as reflections on the season. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 50

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. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack. This week, the season of lights was in full effect, along with that other holiday favorite, the year-end book list. Plus many other things. Enjoy.

I’ll probably skip next week and be back on New Year’s (Eve or Day) for the final edition of 2023. See you then.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 48

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. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack. This week: old books and libraries, echo salesmen, mouths and spectacles, catastrophes and the delights of life. Enjoy!

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Poetry Blog Digest 2023, 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. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack. This week: the Bird King, 1300 chapbooks, the air full of silk, a Tasmanian double, the absence of sex in lit mags, and much, much more. Enjoy.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 31

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. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack. This week, summer’s tide appears to be going out, but there’s still time for road-tripping, polishing manuscripts, doing the #SealeyChallenge and more. Enjoy.


At the beach earlier this week, we found a much-broken up rock jetty that teemed with creatures. As I sat back on my heels and peered into the mixture of sand-water-rock-mullosk-kelp, I found myself thinking about Aristotle’s immanent realism (epistemology/natural philosophy), ideas he likely nurtured while examining the tide pools of Lesbos. Or I imagine that he may have done so. We humans observe, and then classify or categorize based upon these observations: similarities, differences, various adaptations–in environment, habit, behavior, construction of the being or entity itself.

I think if I had known as a child and young woman that there was a career path called “a naturalist,” I would have pursued it.

Ann E. Michael, Classification

This year I am part of a group exhibition titled ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ along with artists Donna Gordge and Bernadette Woods. Why happiness? After Covid and some recent rough personal times, all three of us felt we needed to make work that lifted us, made us feel a little lighter. 

We met once to discuss how we might approach exploring ‘happiness’ visually, and came up with lists of things that made us happy including stone fruit, lime-green linen, poached eggs and birds. We talked about the materials & methods we might use – family photographs, paint, posca pens, wallpaper & collage – and then we just got on and made stuff. We checked in with each other a few times online. Then, before we knew it, we were in the West Torrens Gallery hanging the works. We open on Thursday 3rd August, and the exhibition will be on display for the month of August. […]

I’ve made 25 collages, each one containing a photograph from a Danish family album dated 1936-1946 that I found in a flea market. All the photographs  are small, approx 10x7cm.

I have loved hanging out with these tiny black and whites that are about 80 years old. They made me think of my own family holidays in Esperance when I was a kid, a time of of tents and caravans under a bright West Australian sky; of new discoveries in a new land; of a naive happiness but also the yearning that comes with migration; of land, grass, white sand and sparkling sea water; and of being a body experiencing the wonder in this world (also remembering the discomfort of sand in my knickers).

I love that these holiday snaps are now hanging in a gallery in Adelaide, miles & miles from where they were taken, and that we get to enjoy them. If you’re in the neighbourhood, feel free to drop in to spend time with the artworks made by Donna, Bernadette, and myself (there’s some poetry in the exhibition too, of course). And who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself reflecting on what it is that make you happy.

Caroline Reid, SALA Exhibition: The Pursuit of Happiness

I cannot believe this blog is 20 years old. I started it in 2003 in a fit of pique when my website kept going down or having glitches while I was trying to promote my debut poetry collection, Better To Travel.

Blogs were still fairly nascent back then (Google had just acquired Blogger in 2003!)  and I thought this site would be a temporary thing until I got my real website sorted out. It didn’t take long to realize that blogging was becoming “a thing.” I was getting views, so I thought why not make Blogger my “home” on the web? Two decades later, it still is. 

The name “modern confessional” came from a question posed in an interview when the reporter asked what kind of poetry I wrote. Off the top of my head – and in a nod to Sexton, Plath, and Olds – I spouted out modern confessional. What is modern confessional poetry? Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. But the name stuck and I still identify with being an unabashed confessional poet. 

Collin Kelley, Modern Confessional blog turns 20

When I started this blog in 2013, I wasn’t sure what to write about. I flailed around, sharing posts about this and that, wondering if anyone cared what I wrote. From my early stats, not very many people did. After three years, I gave up. Between January 2016 and October 2017, I didn’t post anything. 

What got me posting again? An idea I had while driving between California and Oregon in 2017. I decided to start a newsletter, which I named Sticks & Stones, focused on poetry book reviews. I’d written several reviews in the past, and enjoyed the process enough to want to write more. I wrote about this epiphany in the blog post “Reviews, Reviews, Reviews!” (11/17/17). With a review of Jenene Ravesloot’s Sliders, I launched Sticks & Stones in January, 2018. The newsletter has been quite successful. Every month more readers sign up, which makes me very happy.

Back to the blog: readership has grown, albeit slowly. After almost ten years, I have some useful statistics. My readers are much more interested in “how-to” blogs than some random thought I had about being a writer (unless that thought was helpful to them).

Erica Goss, New Direction for the Blog and a Request

When Amy told me there was a job opening up, I applied and mentioned my experience pulling cases and driving a forklift in a grocery warehouse a decade earlier, mostly to show that even though my recent work experience involved being in front of a classroom, I knew my way around a factory floor. And during the interview, the people I’d be working with and directly under were interested in that. But not Fritz. He’d heard that I was a Stegner Fellow in poetry and wanted to ask me about that. He asked me what journals I read and said he had a subscription to The New Criterion (conservative in his literary tastes too) and mentioned that he’d studied literature at Stanford as well. He asked what I wrote about—roads mostly just then, having spent a lot of time on them criss-crossing the country and exploring the west—and who my influences were—Seamus Heaney at the moment—and then it was over.

I think I started the following week, though my memory is a little foggy on that. I do remember that I mostly worked in the racking room at first, rolling full kegs onto pallets, putting empties into the other end. It was physical work, and fairly solitary because the noise levels required we wear ear plugs and because Darek, who ran the line, was a friendly but quiet giant of a man. I lined up kegs on pallets and Darek stacked them with a forklift and drove them to the cooler. I loaded empties into the racket and Darek repaired kegs with busted valves. And at the end of the day, I swept up and scrubbed the floor and hosed it off and after clocking out, went up to the tap room for a beer.

It was a great job for an artist because it was work you could do without thinking about it. The bottling line was similar, though we rotated stations every thirty minutes because one of the jobs—watching for messed up labels—really was so boring that you’d fall asleep doing it. I carried a small notebook and pen in my jumpsuit pocket to scribble down lines that popped into my head while I was waiting for full cases of beer bottles to line up so I could palletize them.

Brian Spears, Anchors Away

The first 20 copies of my latest collaboration with San Francisco poet and activist Beau Beausoleil have set out on their long journey across the more than five thousand miles – an eight-hour difference – between here and there. I handed the package over to our lovely local postwoman this morning, so I did not even have to go out in today’s downpours to the Post Office.

Beau has written almost daily poems for Ukraine since the sudden, shocking escalation of the war on 24 February 2022. This is a remarkable achievement, but it did make the selection of twenty-five of them for this chapbook a daunting task. These are poems of resistance and rage, tenderness and sorrow. They may focus on human cruelty but they do not fail to notice mundane moments that can overwhelm us with their unexpected beauty.

Who are these men, asks the poet, who always want revenge for their own sins (False Flag)
And on being distracted on his way to market by a red leaf: I am incapable of denying this close beauty that is indifferent to the cruelty we inflict upon each other (War News)

Many of the poems first appeared on Felicia Rice’s website. The centre-spread of the chapbook features a drawing by Felicia. The images on the front cover, title page and flysheets are from my one-off book, 24 Feb 2022. I made the originals by dipping handmade papers into home-brewed botanical inks.

The text is printed on almost-white 120gsm recycled paper with excellent opacity, and the cover is 170gsm ‘Flat White’ card made from used disposable coffee cups! I am pleased by how well both took the coloured images. The 5-hole pamphlet-sewn book measures 30x11cm (12×4.5 inches) and has 36 pages. Each book comes with a band sealed with a stitched kiss (see top photo), and is numbered in the colophon and on the back cover.

Ama Bolton, New Book: Poems for Ukraine

A prose poem of mine was published in # 185 of orbis magazine. The inspiration may, in part, have come from reading the long prose poem 12 O’Clock News by Elizabeth Bishop.

It refers to eight items in her room, with a gooseneck lamp standing in for the moon. The first section ends ‘Visibility is poor. Nevertheless, we shall try to give you some idea of the lay of the land and the present situation.’

I love the humour in it. Here is the description of a pile of mss: ‘A slight landslide occurred in the northwest about an hour ago. The exposed soil appears to be of poor quality: almost white, calcareous and shaly. There are believed to have been no casualties.’

Bishop’s prose poem changes tone as it continues. With the final object, ashtray, we’re suddenly in a warzone; there are dead bodies, corrupt leaders are mentioned. It’s even more devastating because of the ordinariness of the object.

Fokkina McDonnell, Favourite objects

Turning
into 49th from the boulevard,
you can see ships make
their crossing. One of the art
history teachers in the college says,
if you speed up you get a little
lesson in perspective: the Lego bricks
they seem to be carrying are containers
marked Maersk or Hapag-Lloyd.
There’s active commerce in the world
again, though not far from here, a street
named Quarantine reminds us
of other deadly periods of pandemic.
People are eating again in restaurants,
coming back from Iceland or
Greece. Once, we dreamed of walking
that road of pilgrimage going through
cities like San Sebastian and Bilbao.
The world is so close sometimes.
But we’ve come to understand
the quiet in the yard, even on the hottest
days of summer. The stones shimmer,
each giving off their own mirage.

Luisa A. Igloria, Vanishing Points

Today’s full moon is the Sturgeon Moon (thanks, The Old Farmer’s Almanac!) so named as the giant sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were more easily caught at this time of year. (If you missed my post on the Strawberry Moon, you can read about it here).

The etymology of “sturgeon,” circa 1300, is mysterious, possibly from a lost pre-Indo-European language of northern Europe, or from the root of stir (v.). “Stir” would make sense as sturgeons spend their lives at the bottom of lakes, stirring mud as they search for food. But in August, around the time of the Sturgeon Moon, they rise to the surface.

Sturgeons were also “a much-esteemed fish in ancient Greece, a costly luxury in Rome.” They can live to be 100 years old. Seriously, how awesome is this fish? (So awesome, it has a full moon named after it.)

As usual, here’s a selection of poems I admire, this time about moons, fish, and bodies of water.

Maya C. Popa, Sturgeon Moon: Poems

As we waited in the theater for the sky show to start, a huge image of the moon was on the wall, rendered amid rainbow colors that shifted and receded along the domed edges of the room. I couldn’t help but think of how the moon is basically just this rocky satlleite that orbits the earth and yet we’ve written countless lovesongs and poems and prayers to the moon since the beginning. Dare I say more than the sun, which is the thing that keeps this whole solar system spinning. And yet the moon is what we fall in love with the most, even though it offers neither light nor warmth.

Sylvia’s moon and its “bald and wild” presence. This month’s double full moons. The Sturgeon moon that means fish are more easily caught and snared in this month more than others. I once write a whole series of epistolary poems to the moon and tucked them into tiny vellum envelopes. Boxed them with old paper moon images and maps and transparency overlays of the moon. Despite this tribute, I’ve still managed to never get a really good and true shot of the moon with a camera–at last not the image I see with my eye–huge and looming over the lake sometimes as it rises. 

I’ve been reading about moon gardens after working on a decor piece about gardens in Savanannah. About planting things that will be equally beautiful and luminescent in the moonlight. About moon doors, which seem to be a cross between a garden gate and a fairy ring. But then again, all night owls must love the moon. Poets too. While I’ve never been a beach day kind of person (pale, pale skin and a tendency to get really drained by heat and sun) I am an avid fan of beach nights, especially when the moon is over the water and its clear enough to see a few brighter stars out over the lake. 

Kristy Bowen, cold and planetary

This week started with the first of two August Supermoons, two things that bode ill for me—August and Supermoons. On the nights of supermoons, I have passed out, been diagnosed with MS, been in the hospital…and August is my worst month for MS symptoms. I looked at my Facebook memories over the past ten years for the first week of August, and in seven out of ten I’ve been in the ER for something. And I’m afraid this week was no different. […]

The good news for this week was a new kind of thing for me—Instagram book fame, LOL! The Instagram account Taylor Swift as Books—which pairs book covers with Taylor Swift looks and funny hashtags—put my book, Flare, Corona, up on Thursday!

But before I had time to celebrate, something was going very wrong with me, and I ended up in the hospital with a pretty bad infection. I’m back at home now, on heavy antibiotics, but several days were just a blur. I did have two doctors get ahold of me on the weekend (!!) to make sure I didn’t die, which was nice.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Supermoons and August Flowers, Hospital Trips, Taylor Swift and Flare Corona on Instagram Together, and A Topsy Turvy Week

There is a pause and celebration to be had here, in August. The first of the month is known as ‘Lammas’, from the early medieval ‘loaf mass’ a celebration and blessing of the first harvest by baking into a loaf the first flour. Here’s an interesting blog which explores the connections between the Christian harvest festival and earlier Anglo Saxon and possible earlier pagan rituals: 

Lammas History

It brings to my mind also this king of witch-hare poems, which I have always loved. The imagery sings of darkness and an earthy magic that feels possible now in this transitional stage of the season. The Lammas Hireling is by Ian Duhig.

I hunted down her torn voice to his pale form.
Stock-still in the light from the dark lantern,
stark-naked but for one bloody boot of fox-trap,
I knew him a warlock, a cow with leather horns.

You can read the full, glorious poem on the Poetry Society website, here:

The Lammas Hireling

I have not had time to make a loaf myself (note to self: make time for the slow joy of baking) but if you wanted to make a loaf and bless it too, there are recipes about. This one, perhaps, if you are feeling witchy:

Lammas Bread and Protection Spell

This deep state of summer then, a grey area merging into the darker months has a feeling of having somehow ‘made it through’ the summer months, of preparing for the next season, of having now the time to reap, to gather and not just food, but thoughts, reflections, before the bridge is crossed into autumn and the time of change. The is what I want the next five posts to be about, this is what I want from The Sensory Summer – a pause, a time to reflect and capture the summer and bring it down to the page.

Wendy Pratt, Late Summer – A Sensory Experience – The Sounds of Summer Post One

It’s August. *sigh* Summer is just about over here—three weeks until my kids are back in school—and I’m both ready and not ready. I have a lot of writing to do, and a quiet house will help with that, but it’s been such a fun and relaxing few months. Beauty emergencies daily!

Here are some things that have made the summer extra dear.

Favorite recent reads: Silas House on Jason Isbell in TIME, Hanif Abdurraqib on Sinéad O’Connor—may she rest in peace—in The New Yorker, and Monsters by Claire Dederer. I muttered to myself—yes! this exactly! so fucking smart!—and dogeared, underlined, and starred passages through this whole brilliant book.

Congrats to my friends Andy J. Pizza and Sophie Miller on their beautiful new picture book, Invisible Things, a New York Times bestseller.

On my excited-to-read-next list: Ruth Madievsky’s All-Night Pharmacy, Sarah Rose Etter’s Ripe, and Camille Dungy’s Soil. (If you have book recs for me, I’m all ears!)

Maggie Smith, The Good Stuff

I was ready to go at 3:00 p.m.  I had the manuscript updated and the document that has my bio open.  I clicked on the webpage at 3:00 p.m. and didn’t see a way to submit.  I opened the page in a new tab and there was the form.  I filled it in as quickly as possible and hit submit.  And voila!  I got the above message.

I was under no illusions; I knew the window would close shortly after 3:00, that 300 submissions would come in quickly.  It was still surprised to go back and to see that it had closed in just minutes.

I only heard about this submission possibility a few days ago from a random Twitter tweet from a Twitter user I don’t follow.  For once, the unfathomable algorithm worked for me!  I had wondered if I should submit at all, since my career isn’t dependent on publications.  But just because I didn’t submit doesn’t mean that slot would go to someone who desperately needed the chance.

I have a deep belief in my manuscript, and it’s not just me; it’s been a semifinalist, and I’ve gotten good feedback from publishers that I respect.  I thought about spending part of yesterday before 3:00 p.m. reworking the manuscript and adding some of my most recent poems, but I decided against it.  My most recent poems are going in a different direction in terms of form and content, so I’ll save those for a different manuscript.

I’m familiar with the work of two other poets who got their manuscripts in, and I see them as peers.  I’m not competing against well known poets; in fact, the call was specifically for poets who don’t have an agent.  My first reaction was “Poets have agents?”

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Scribner Submission

My most recently published collection [https://marilynonaroll.wordpress.com/my-books-and-stuff/] is dusty on the shelf, having come out as Covid locked us down. So I’ve been trying to build an inventory of published poems toward a new collection. Well. Now, I’m all pissy and broody again over the rejections rolling in like tumbleweeds.

I mean, even places I thought I had an “in” with, in one way or another, just plumped a no through the mail slot, no regrets or gee maybe next times or it’s not you it’s us-es.

At times like these I riddle my spreadsheet with fuckyouguys and thanksalotforfuckalls, which in cooler moments I go back and delete. (I like to act out on my spreadsheet. And then I like to primly go back and clean it up. It’s the pursed-lip New England protestant in me, plus the unruly Irish catholic. Or perhaps vice versa. You can’t trust stereotypes.)

I have all this new work I’m excited about but a bunch of old work I used to be excited about but all the rejections have cast a pall over it all. Okay, yes, I did have that wonderful visual poem up at About Place. I’m still excited by that. And that older poem that came out in Mud Season earlier this spring. And some translations coming out at some point, which, again, I’m so thrilled about.

So (you roll your eyes), what’s with the gnashing of teeth and foul mouth?

Marilyn McCabe, Drifting along with the tumbling; or, On the Biz Work

Memories of mosh pits, Southern grits, and cross-country road trips. Counting off four with the beat of my drums. Wannabe Bruce Lee kicks and a busted thumb. Driving wasted through all the wasted days and nights. Being held up at gunpoint and protesting to make a point. Crossdressing and second-guessing. Cruising late-night Mulholland and cooling my heels in county jail. Love haloed by dashboard light and mid-summer moonlight. House plants and a nearby Jersey nuclear power plant. Being read to as a child and words blooming wild.

Rich Ferguson, You Can Get Here From There

Bringing history alive in poems is no easy task, particularly so when the times being addressed are so far from today. So I have the utmost admiration for poets who can weave historical research into readable, listenable poetry without letting facts overpower the poetic magic.

I was recently invited to join an online poetry-book reading group and I’ve very much enjoyed the meetings I’ve attended. For the last one, the book which one member of the group had proposed was The Lost Book of Barkynge by Ruth Wiggins (available from the publisher, Shearsman, here). It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. It brings into the light a succession of nuns and other women associated with Barking Abbey from the Seventh Century to the Dissolution. Each poem is headed by a scene-setting ‘hic’ and has extensive end-notes; yet what could be an arid reading experience is surmounted by a refreshing variety of forms and personae. It is a truly extraordinary book. To read it, one would’ve thought it had taken decades to write, but, amazingly, Wiggins says, in an interview, here, that it started as a lockdown project. In how it reclaims otherwise lost, suppressed or hidden voices, it’s uniquely beautiful.

Matthew Paul, On poetry as living history and vice versa

He hefts the scythe, his
father’s before he died
beneath a thrashing horse.
He has a canvas bag,
an old hole sewn tight
and a new strap secured
made from his grandda’s
belt. Inside a loaf’s end
and cheese in a damp rag
and cider in a stoneware
jar. And a book with words
and pictures and a space
under each to write in.
He’ll join the men and boys
down on the lane by
the meadow gate. He has
a joke ready in his head,
one to cap Old Japhy’s,
ruder, bolder, a tale that
only a man that’s tumbled
a girl in the straw would
dare to tell at noon break.
He blushes in contemplation.
But how much sooner he
would rather curl up under
the hay wain with his book
for to read like a scholar
is a glory just close enough
to wish for in the night.

Dick Jones, WHITE FIELD IN BARLEY

There is much to admire in this poem, the repetitive a sounds of the first six lines give it an East Anglian feel to my ears, the phrase “the river / of this town in his throat” is a sound I recognise in the way some folks almost gargle as they speak. It’s also obvious (to me at least) that the last line was always going to be a knockout punch for someone that misses the countryside, although an alternative reading of that last line is potentially much darker..What kept her away for so long, especially when taken in conjunction with the use of the word “stench” earlier in the last stanza?

However, the winner for me is to be found the second stanza…where she describes the old boy (or bor, if we’re going colloquial, and why wouldn’t we?) as having lived in a “radius of four roads”, and having performed “Feats”. I think this phrase contains multitudes…Has he had a quiet but full life? He has achieved “Feats” in that small space. What are those “Feats”? I want to know more, but I know they don’t need to be things that are shouted about.

It makes me think of all the people out there that get on with life and often go entirely unnoticed but have had full lives. It makes me think of many people I know that have barely left the borders of their town or village, hamlet or county. It seems odd in this interconnected world of ours, but it also sounds incredibly appealing at present as the sounds of this London suburb are doing what they do behind my head as I type.

And man, the silence when I was back in Worstead was glorious. There was a moment when I was sitting with my friend in another friend’s garden. It was utterly silent apart from the occasional garbled noise coming from the festival announcers (and there were some wonderful Norfolk accents on display there too).

That mention of silence is probably my cue to stop gibbering, but please do go and buy Rebecca [Goss]’s work, watch the videos and listen to the podcasts.

Mat Riches, You’re an accent waiting to happen…

I will be in your photograph
the one you are taking now
of the grand facade of this building
as I am sat in the coffee shop
sipping green tea
looking out of the window
my face a collection of coloured pixels
caught on the screen of your phone
as you record every moment of your life

Paul Tobin, A COLLECTION OF COLOURED PIXELS

Two summers ago in London, we spent some time in a used bookstore, having a few spare hours before our next activity or meal. One of the books I found was a small 1959 copy of Selected Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, which was filled with not only detailed marginalia but also papers filled with red-pen notes for what look like essay responses to some of the poems. This is one of the reasons I love buying used books – these little glimpses into other lives and minds who owned them.

I hadn’t read much Hopkins except for what was anthologized in my college Norton’s, so it was a delight to discover the utter decadence of his language, the musicality, the alliteration, the word-play. In the 53 poems in this collection, Hopkins uses at least 50 different hyphenated constructions to create new adjectives and nouns.

Some of my favorite phrases that come from this hyphenate play are:

the moth-soft Milky Way

a wind-beat whitebeam

sheep-flock clouds

the plumed purple-of-thunder

snow-pinioned leaf-light.

His alliterative skill, though at times over the top, completely charmed me as well:

from “The Windhover” – daylight’s dauphin, dapple-down-drawn Falcon

from “Blinsey Poplars” – wind-wandering weed-winding bank

from “No Worst, There is None” – My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief woe, world-sorrow.

And amid all the technical pyrotechnics, some beautiful lines that stuck with me:

from “Spring” – thrush’s eggs look little low heavens

from “The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe” – we are wound with mercy round and round as if with air

and my favorite Hopkins line from “The Habit of Perfection” – Shape nothing, lips – be lovely-dumb

Spending time with this makes me glad that I have decided to read old books as well as contemporary ones for this challenge…I can always learn. And, to borrow some language from “God’s Grandeur,” I can be delighted and surprised, lifted by “Ah! bright wings!”

Donna Vorreyer, Music-Play, Word-Glow

This August I am once again not doing the #SealeyChallenge. I gave some thought to it—reading a poetry book a day for the month of August, then simply posting a picture to Instagram—but…I get so much out of my April poetry-book marathon that I can’t imagine not sharing a longer reflection. The April project always ends up trashing any other plans for the month, and it always ends up being worth it.

I think what I’m trying to say here is that if you feel led to read a poetry book a day, and reflect on what you find, I HIGHLY encourage you to do so.

Today, because it was left over from my April book stack, I decided to read Rena Priest’s Sublime, Subliminal, which was a finalist for the 2018 Floating Bridge Chapbook competition.

I always love Rena’s poems. She was our Washington Poet Laureate for two years, 2021-2023, and, among so much else as part of her heart-filled service to the poetry community, edited the brilliant I Sing the Salmon Home.

The fifteen poems in Sublime, Subliminal are not straight-forward, easily understood poems. They challenged me. When I let myself drop fully into the project, they also delighted me. Opening lines such as, “Your kiss is backlit pixilation” (“Canadian Tuxedo”); “The bookshelf is a psychic vortex” (“The Final Word”); or this sentence, “In the darkness of the cupboard, / the inner life of the water glass / is not empty” (“Inner Life of the Water Glass”) pushed me to see and think differently.

When I reached the acknowledgments page I was tickled—and not altogether surprised—to discover that the poems were inspired by Jim Simmerman’s “20 Little Poetry Projects.” Years ago, when my children were young and I was a new not-yet-tenured college teacher, I came across this exercise in The Practice of Poetry (edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell), and it worked so well for me that I stopped using it after a few poems. It felt like cheating! Rena Priest, so much smarter, put together a whole book.

Bethany Reid, Rena Priest, “Sublime, Subliminal”

You ever read the notes at the back of a poetry collection, and go, wait a flipping-doodle minute, this, epigraphs and thanks, it’s all guys.

Or if the collection is by a woman, hey, these are all women. Or if it’s by someone queer, all queer. Or someone old, all oldies. And so on, split down the demographics.

Does one’s sub-community of writers have all the gender spectrum or just people that look like you?

At the Chelsea author’s market day, at the next table was Sean Silcoff. He had a stream of well-wishers. His book is being made into a movie. He and I witnessed buyer after buyer explain that they were buying his tech story book about the Blueberry for {her husband, her son, her husband, her uncle}. At one point he mused to himself, why don’t women read it themselves?

That there is a salient question. Dang me, I’m guilty as the aggregate. I had already texted Brian to ask if he wanted to read it. We might read it together but. *shudder* Did I just do a “womanly thing”?

Pearl Pirie, Gender and Writing

This poem is a tipping point.
This poem is a woman running.
This poem is a spreading disquiet.

This poem is an orange domino
trembling at the edge of time.
Don’t touch! Even your breath,
even your most gentle thought,
even a memory, can begin
an end. Stay where you are.
This poem is a tipping point.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, This poem is a tipping point

Laila Malik is a desisporic settler and writer living in Adobigok, traditional land of Indigenous communities including the Anishinaabe, Seneca, Mohawk Haudenosaunee, and Wendat. Her debut poetry collection, archipelago (Book*Hug Press, 2023) has been described as haunting, tender and exquisite (Salma Hussain, Temz Review) and was named one of the CBC’s Canadian poetry collections to watch for in 2023. Her essays have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net anthology, longlisted for five different creative nonfiction and poetry contests, and widely published in Canadian and international literary journals. Malik has been awarded grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Council for the Arts, and was a fellow at the Banff Centre for Creative Arts for her novel-in-progress.

1 – How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My first book was a very slow, jigsaw process of building courage and coming to acceptance. I come from a people who are intensely private, and the prospect of publishing has always posed carried great risk to me and to us. I had to slowly come to terms with the idea of becoming more public, and think through ways to navigate a landscape that was foreign and riddled with real and perceived threat. But one of the most wonderful results has been the opportunity to connect with individuals who were just as starved as I had been for more complex diaspora stories, and specifically voices from our hitherto unspoken experience as South Asians coming of age in the Arabian Gulf.

I still write poetry after archipelago, but I have been trying the new challenge of novel-writing, which so far feels comparatively slow and clumsy. I did a residency at Banff where a mentor mentioned that it takes on average between four and six years to complete a novel, and that sounds about right. Add to that the daily needs of paying the bills and feeding the children, and who knows how much longer it might take?

2 – How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

I was a high school misfit in a place of impossible airlessness, skulking the dusty aisles of my library to alleviate desperate boredom when I came upon two forms that changed my life: poetry and plays. There was ee cummings and Eugene Ionesco, and the strange speed and immediacy of poetry, alongside the radical but upside-down, inside-out approach of the theatre of the absurd in particular, split open my universe of possibility. I was stunned that this work was sitting casually and untouched in the middle of an otherwise strictly guarded world. I began a correspondence with another poetic rebel friend, and we compared notes on form and content, pushing one another to try new things with words on paper to speak to all things unspeakably sublime and grotesquely unbearable.

But it wasn’t until I got to university and encountered the work of feminist, and especially Black feminist poets like Audre Lorde and June Jordan that I began to understand poetry as innate and experiential to the lives of women and those who are repeatedly kept out of institutions of power, a form that is fundamentally revolutionary and accessible. I could and did write poetry in hospital hallways, in the mosque, at 3am while feeding a child, after a racist or sexist encounter at a supermarket, with a boss, with a government official. Poetry gleams from within the blood and visceral filth of the every day and so I seized it quickly and greedily and eternally as mine, before anyone could tell me any different.

rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (second series) questions with Laila Malik

I’m thrilled to announce the forthcoming publication of my third poetry chapbook, Postcards from Texas, now available for preorder from Cuttlefish Books. This chapbook is my first that is devoted exclusively to haiku, and represents the shift in my creative focus since 2020. You can find the preorder link here: https://cuttlefishbooks.wixsite.com/home/2023-summer-book-launch.

The haiku in Postcards from Texas were mostly written in the second half of 2021 and the first half of 2022, the last 12 months I spent living in Austin. A few are older, going as far back as 2018. They were composed on hikes and camping trips, as well as dog walks around the city and picnics in local parks. My haiku address the changing political and physical landscape of a place I lived in, and deeply loved, for 15 years.

I’ve now lived in Missouri for just over a year. I adore the city of St. Louis, I finally found a job I could enjoy, and there are gorgeous landscapes throughout the state. The past year has also been one of grief for a place I still adore with all my heart, a place I thought I’d live until I died. Putting this chapbook together this past spring was a way to find some resolution of those emotions surrounding my move.

Postcards from Texas contains another form of grief as well. In 2015, I reconnected with my maternal grandfather for the first time in 20 years. (The reasons for that separation are complicated, and I have become wary of making family history public.) John and I are avid hikers, and I began sending my grandfather postcards from our hikes and camping trips all over Texas. He loved seeing the places we went. Four and a half years after my grandfather came back into my life, the universe took him from me again. He didn’t die of COVID, but I believe that he was a secondary casualty of the havoc the virus created around the world. There is no way to know fore sure, but I believe that if COVID hadn’t cause so many other problems, he’d still be here. I still feel sad that we didn’t get more time, and heartbroken that COVID protocols kept me from seeing him or even attending his funeral.

Postcards from Texas is dedicated to my maternal grandfather, as well as all the other people I lost my last few years in Texas (all but one of them died before COVID). Putting this book together was a way to continue writing postcards could no longer go to their intended recipient. It’s not just a farewell to a place I loved; it’s a reckoning of the loss that I feel should never have happened when it did.

Allyson Whipple, Now in Preorder: Postcards from Texas

On the good news front, I finally sent out another collection submission to a publisher. Well, it might be bad news of course, but good that I sent it at least.

Also, Beth Miller critiqued my book submission letter and synopsis and asked some very difficult questions, which has led to me doing some serious re-writes. But I’m still aiming to start submitting it to agents in September. Meanwhile I’ve started plotting the next book.

Peter and I had our Planet Poetry AGM today, and we’ve lots of ideas for our fourth season which begins in October, plus, while we’re in the close season we’re going to showcase a few of our favourite archive episodes.

Other than that, I’m looking forward to a wee trip to London to see & hear Voces8 in a prom, not to mention a whole week away next month in Wales, plus a family get-together. And although it hasn’t been the best year for gardening, we have a bumper crop of tomatoes and even a few beans. Happy days!

Robin Houghton, In the summertime when the weather is fine…

CB1, Cambridge’s live poetry gathering, has returned at a new venue – the Town and Gown in the city centre (where the Arts Cinema used to be). Over 30 people were there, and there’s room for more. No guest poet this time – it was all open mic, with no shortage of people willing to perform.

Perhaps this is what people really want – a place where once a month they can perform for free, free of criticism, with a chance to have a drink and a chat afterwards with like-minded people.

Maybe guest poets put people off – why pay to listen to someone you don’t much like and who uses up valuable open mic time? Open mic evenings are easier to organise too, I should think.

The room is goth/cellar style with a glitter-ball, which is becoming rather standard for poetry venues. I like it. My only worry is that there aren’t enough chances to chat (i.e. exchange poetry information) with people. Open mic evenings are all very well, but they don’t have the edge (or quality control) that Slam Competitions do.

Tim Love, CB1 is back!

These offerings are like fractals, or a kaleidoscope, or a collective word cloud, or a many-faceted gem. The same tiny piece of prayer inspires different things for each of us. Sometimes we root our offerings in the etymology of a particular Hebrew word or phrase. Sometimes the same word takes each of us in a different direction. (Hebrew is rich like that.) We take a prayer and we talk through it. We turn it over and over, and we refract the light of our creativity and our understanding through it. Or we refract ourselves through the lens of the prayer. Or the prayer through the lens of each of us. (Or all of the above.) We share our work, we critique and comment, we make suggestions. We turn things around, change stanzas, turn one poem into two or vice versa. Artists riff off of words. Writers riff off of images. And when all is said and done, we’ve created something that’s more than the sum of its parts. 

I often feel these days that my own creativity is lying fallow. I’m not working on a big poetry project, and that’s been true for a while. My last two books were Texts to the Holy (which came out from Ben Yehuda in 2018) and Crossing the Sea (from Phoenicia, 2020). It’s going on four years since Crossing the Sea came out, and I don’t know what’s next. Maybe the pandemic and the loss of my second parent and my heart attack are percolating in me. Maybe the pastoral needs of this moment are so great that I just don’t have space for holding a book in mind. Anyway: even in a time of limited personal creativity, this collaborative work at Bayit nourishes me, and it keeps me writing, a little bit. I’m grateful for that.

Rachel Barenblat, Gevurot: Be There

Yesterday I charged my dead reMarkable. I am ready to write poetry again, despite the chemo-induced fog I’m still experiencing.

A person can find meaning in fog. It can be very soothing actually, fog filling the little depressions in the landscape. Depression is the actual scientific name for places where the fog gathers here on the Jæren bogs . No metaphor intended. All truths converge at some point – maybe language with the landscape especially.

*

I delivered the final draft of the Lear adaptation on time. I don’t think I could be prouder of myself, or more appreciative of the opportunity. I am excited to see what the director does with it. How the actors bring breath to the artifact that is the text.

But what to do now? I’m still mourning the loss of my upstairs studio, and I learned it will probably be another two years before I have the space again. I also know full-well that I am using this as an excuse to shove the physical (vispo) poetry work to the side right now. I’m craving order, and paper-making and the like is disorder and there’s no corner of the house that I am willing to let go of right now. Maybe I really do need to go back to the basics.

Haibun, tanka, still pulling at me. American sentences. Maybe I need to explore my own forms – constrained poetry – outside of the vispo context.

Maybe. Definitely. And it shouldn’t be surprising that I want to work with form right now. Control. Order.

Ren Powell, Embracing the Fog

In an essay on the poetic and emotional/spiritual value of waiting, Arundhathi Subramaniam writes:

Poems are about waiting because while a shift in perception can happen in a flash, it is often preceded by a slow, unseen process of unlearning. It takes unlearning to defamiliarise the world, to reinvigorate one’s gaze.

If unlearning is part of the work of crafting poetry, it’s also, I think, part of poetry’s power. The potential to unsettle and unseat. [Kate] Fox’s are poems of reclamation, celebrating authenticity and kinship in neurodiversity – and, indeed, in life. Poems of resistance, pouring light on the shadowy recesses of power, ushering unseen perspectives and identities into view. And in so doing, they invite us as readers to resist, too. Resist stereotypes and cliché, those well-trodden mental paths. Resist the easy mental slide towards the familiar. To resist, even, the dictates of language, remember “the gaps between words and things” and to enter into them, ready to be surprised.

Jonathan Totman, On What Could be Called Communication

ice cream truck!
they abandon their castle
to the tide

Bill Waters, Hopewell Valley Neighbors magazine: August ’23

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 29

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. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack. This week: the sea and other holiday destinations, kids, writing retreats, sewing, Barbie, and more. Enjoy,


“The sea is not less beautiful in our eyes because we know that ships are sometimes wrecked by it. On the contrary, this adds to its beauty,” says Simone Weil, French philosopher in a poetic mood. She’s right: the endless surface of the sea, whether navy or aquamarine, has the abyss tucked into it. Summer used to be billed as a time to shed every care; now we know it will be ringed by wildfires or panting hot temperatures, by enclosures on the tarmac or by encirclements of algae. How else to reach paradise but by snaking roads, switchbacks and old goat paths that flirt along unguarded cliffs? But those 300 degree views of the sea! That dizzying compact between danger and thrill. Even when lying passively on a beach, you are in the solar eye. Remember Weil: “On the contrary, this adds to its beauty.”

Jill Pearlman, Simone Weil: Happy Beachgoer

We dip in the ocean. We marvel at the ocean, because most of us on the board don’t live here. (The one who does live here laughs and affectionately calls us tourists.) Pelicans glide right overhead, and sandpipers run on wet sand. We hum bits of liturgy on the beach. A seashell with a hole in it sparks a sermon idea. Among rabbis, with the Days of Awe on the horizon, everything is a sermon idea.

We brainstorm about build projects, governance and innovation, what we want to co-create in the year to come. We talk about collaborative play, about middot (character-qualities), about book projects and game mechanics and how to reach people where they are. We play Hebrew bananagrams, examine what makes good games work, talk about what might differentiate liturgy from poetry.

Rachel Barenblat, A Week of Building With the Bayit Board

Poems this past year have, admittedly, been sparse. Last summer was given over to the wedding, and months before the wedding to growing sweet peas, Japanese anemones, cornflowers among a long list. And to sewing. Just as I am intrigued by the co-dependence of writing and gardening, I’ve come to see writing, gardening and making clothes as a divine trinity that came together for the wedding. Here’s the family, plus dear friends who count as family. And three poems on making the wedding dress (above) are now on Vimeo for the Society of Authors positive poetry party. I made my outfit too. 

Jackie Wills, More on sewing and an anniversary

The sewing I’ve been doing this summer started as an experiment. As in my food choices, I’ve wanted to become more conscious of where our clothing comes from, who our dollars support or hurt, its environmental impact, and how the industry operates. I am neither a purist nor a crusader: I’ve bought plenty of clothes at Zara, H&M, Gap, Old Navy, and many other clothing companies that use offshore manufacturing. But like my friend K., who writes the blog Passage des Perles, I do shop at thrift stores, and am becoming more and more unwilling to support the fast-fashion industry, distressed by its reduced fabric quality and construction, and underwhelmed by the styles as well as their positioning to a much younger consumer. I also didn’t want to spend $200-$300 on just one or two items at local boutiques run by Quebec designers. For that amount of money, I wondered what I could actually make myself, and whether or not I’d be happy with the result.

Beth Adams, A Report on my Summer Sewing Binge – Part 1

And so much time given to those
old gilt cruel gods; so much time given
trying to sew a rag doll of myself. When
I could have followed a single splash
spilled from the jar of the sun; a moment’s
careless radiance; a story of its own.

Dale Favier, Pail

I’m rather late in posting this. On 10th June, Mo Kiziewicz gathered a group of ten writers and artists for a second day of art and poetry in The Hive at Peasedown. (The first one is dicussed here.) We took Cecilia Vicuna’s Brain Forest as our inspiration, playing with knots, experimenting with found materials, sound and language, making ‘precarious art’. A collaborative installation grew in the art room. We read our poems to it, in the midst of it. We photographed and dismantled it. In Vicuna’s words, “We have to work together for our survival … and most of all because it is fun”. It was! We went home with more hope, a new way of looking at discarded materials, and a fresh confidence in our capacity to make something together. Thank you Mo, and all who were there.

Ama Bolton, Quipu at The Hive

Beneath our anxious quickenings, beneath our fanged fears, beneath the rusted armors of conviction, tenderness is what we long for — tenderness to salve our bruising contact with reality, to warm us awake from the frozen stupor of near-living.

Tenderness is what permeates Platero and I (public library) by the Nobel-winning Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez (December 23, 1881–May 29, 1958) — part love letter to his beloved donkey, part journal of ecstatic delight in nature and humanity, part fairy tale for the lonely.

Living in his birthplace of Moguer — a small town in rural Andalusia — Jiménez began composing this uncommon posy of prose poems in 1907. Although it spans less than a year in his life with Platero, it took him a decade to publish it.

At its heart is a simple truth: What and whom we love is a lens to focus our love of life itself.

The tenderness with which Jiménez regards Platero — whom he addresses by name over and over, like an incantation of love — is the tenderness of living with wonder and fragility. He celebrates Platero’s “big gleaming eyes, of a gentle firmness, in which the sun shines”; he reverences him as “friend to the old man and the child, to the stream and the butterfly, to the sun and the dog, to the flower and the moon, patient and pensive, melancholy and lovable, the Marcus Aurelius of the meadows.” He beckons him: “Come with me. I’ll teach you the flowers and the stars.”

Maria Popova, The Donkey and the Meaning of Eternity: Nobel-Winning Spanish Poet Juan Ramón Jiménez’s Love Letter to Life

Juan Garrido Salgado immigrated to Australia from Chile in 1990, fleeing the Pinochet regime that burned his poetry, imprisoned him, and tortured him for his political activism. Since then, his poetry has been widely published to acclaim, and includes eight books, anthologies and translations. His readings are renowned for their passion and dedication to social justice. His latest collection, The Dilemma of Writing a Poem, has just been published by Puncher & Wattman.

Some time ago, we decided to make a video of one of his poems. It was a hard choice, but we settled on Cuando Fui Clandestino / When I Was Clandestine from his collection of the same title, published in 2019 by Rochford Press. The poem is strongly autobiographical and refers to time he spent in Moscow as well as living under curfew in Chile.

Making the video was a challenge. It was not possible for me to film in Russia or Chile, and, in any case, the political and social changes have been so great in each country, it was not clear what footage would be appropriate. We could have used archival footage in the public domain, but, in general, I prefer to use my own original footage in my work. Given that Juan has lived in Adelaide for many years now, we decided that I would film sites around the city that reflected the mood of his original experiences, while being clearly set in a contemporary context. All the footage was taken at night at locations I know well. A few scenes have been composited from more than one location. We went back to a key location not far from where Juan lives to film him on location after dark with his poetry.

Ian Gibbins, Cuando Fui Clandestino – poetry video collaboration with Juan Garrido Salgado

I will finish the rewrites and the edits, and I will start again from nothing to make something new.

Hell, there are comets and asteroids flying through the emptiness of space. It’s just the nature of the universe: the oftentimes uselessness of just being. Where do we get the audacity to think we’re entitled to more?

Ren Powell, Rewrites and Moving On

I thought I’d done with the subject of the Poet Laureate but couldn’t resist one last go after reading fun pieces in The Guardian and The Independent about the selection process in 1967 and 1972 recently revealed by the opening of a government archive held at Kew. […]

Mysteriously, George Barker was sniffily accused of being a ‘down and outer’. Fair enough, he did have 15 children by four different women. (Well, 15 with one woman would have been downright cruel – Ed.) Even that might have been forgiven, perhaps even lauded, had he emerged from the usual public school upbringing – a London Council school and a polytechnic didn’t cut it as Poet Laureate material.

Which left dear old Betjeman, who represented the safest choice with his ‘aroma of lavender and faint musk, tennis lawns and cathedral cloisters’. Well, he deserved his presentation of the poisoned chalice of British poetry as much as anyone.

Now, of course, poet laureates get a 10-year stint at it, which is perhaps more than enough.

If it were still a lifetime’s chore, we’d still have Andrew Motion in charge. A final digression. One of our daughters was once selected as a Foyle’s Young Poet of the Year, a mysterious process in itself, but which entailed a trip to London to mix with the others who had been chosen. She returned unimpressed. “There were people there called Horatio and Jemima and a man who I think was called Motion who seemed to just drink champagne.” As far as I’m aware, she hasn’t written another poem since…

Not that I blame the poet laureate for consuming the free champagne. Given the choice of that or trying to hold conversations with a hoard of teenagers, I’d have taken exactly the same kind of refuge.

Bob Mee, A PROMISE NOT TO WHINGE AND RANT ABOUT POET LAUREATES AGAIN… OK, ONE LAST TIME

I survived the camping with the girls and my youngest son, barely. Our fave campsite has now become stupidly popular, we had a 12-man bachelor party up singing and shooting bb guns until late and a group of giggling mothers into the morning. So I didn’t get much sleep. 

The next day they all cleared off and I thought we’d have a couple of quiet hours to decide whether to stay the next night when a 40-person party showed up for a bbq picnic. I need a new campsite close to a fire pit and toilet and not too far to walk from the car. I want to sit near a lake with just my kids splashing about, I want to sit by a fire in the silence of the woods. We had a lovely time cooking over the fire and swimming and just chilling, but it was just too noisy and crowded. I felt like I was crashing someone else’s party just trying to cook a sausage on the communal fire pit.

There’s a balance point that I always struggle with between what I need and what others need. I’m not always good at meeting both, especially with my kids, but also with my own needs and with others. I’d be happy camping alone, so I can write and do as I please. However, I went camping with my kids who have their own wishes, to a place where there are conveniences that make camping with kids easier. They loved it, having everything near and so did lots of others, so I had to share or not stay a second night. We came home. 

I have an upcoming writers’ retreat with my writing group Helsinki Writers. It’s also a weird balance. We want a social atmosphere, but we want to focus a bit on writing. We say we want to do writing activities and talk, but when we get there we mostly want to drink and chat. This is our third year and we’re still getting the mechanics in place. It will be a good time however we work it. I will make my own time for writing and hopefully, some people will show up for my own little session. And least we’re keeping our festivities in a private place, not taking over a public space.

Gerry Stewart, Finding a Balance with the World

It was really the first time I’d spent any time at all around kids since the pandemic began—besides a short visit with my college roommate’s very well-behaved daughter at a poetry reading—so that was interesting and anxiety-provoking. Glenn’s cooking was a big hit even with the very picky children, and the cats were a hit too (although they were not excited in reciprocity—they are only used to adult visitors). I really enjoyed introducing the kids to things I loved around town—they loved feeding fries to seagulls at Ivar’s, for instance, and had unexpected enthusiasm for the lavender farm and its various flowers. (They even went back without us one morning!) They loved going to a local park. My niece loved my pink typewriter, and I taught her how to use it (though an antique, it doesn’t work flawlessly—much like myself, LOL!)

Jeannine Hall Gailey, A New Review in Colorado Review for Flare, Corona, A Visit from My Older Brother and Family, and Guest Blog Post by Kelli and I at the Poetry Department Blog on Making Your Own Residency

It’s so strange out here in poetry-land. On the one (very large and oppressive) hand, I feel a lot of pressure to not be capitalistic and grossly self-promoting. Particularly in the realm of poetry, fellow writers are often apt to say something like, “focus on the work, not on whether it sells, because poetry doesn’t sell and also capitalism is gross.” Which is certainly true. But then those same writers will be distressed or disappointed or disillusioned (all the big D words) when their poems or their books get very little attention after publication — because after all, when you put effort into something and you share it with the world, you want it to garner *some* attention.

Fabulous Beast was released in the fall of 2019, and I wanted big things for my first book and poetry debut — I had only a year turnaround from acceptance to publication, which I realize now is not a lot of time for planning when post-publication awards, book reviewers, and event organizers often want things like ARCs, book covers & publication details nearly 6 months in advance. I did what I could, but no girl can fight the power of a pandemic, and 2020 destroyed the tail end of my tiny “book tour” in a gross and disheartening way.

So for The Familiar I’ve had almost two years to prepare for publication and it turns out — because of *life* — that’s still not a huge amount of time when publicity and marketing is not your primary area of expertise. But I’ve read and listened and learned a lot in that time, so perhaps my second book will get a little more love than the first one did.

And why should it matter? There’s my ego, of course. It’s more fragile than I’d like to admit, sure. But there’s also an idea that I’ve heard at a number of conferences and also read in craft and publishing articles over the past 18 months: honor the work.

As in, you did this amazing, miraculous thing — you wrote a book and found a publisher who believed in it — so celebrate that marvelous fact. Honor not only the months (and/or years) you spent writing and revising your book, but also honor the efforts of the editors and interns and all the people at the publishing company who are doing something on behalf of your work.

Sarah Kain Gutowski, New Projects (Or New Distractions?)

I’ve been reading another gem of a book I found in Rotherham Library: Tom Paulin’s The Secret Life of Poems, Faber, 2008. […]

He’s brilliant at pointing out the layered, otherwise hidden foreshadowings and secondary meanings. Crucially, though, he stresses the fundamental importance of the sounds, the rhythms, the music, the emphases that poems make. In that vein, he quotes Frost, without stating the source, as follows:

The ear does it. The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader. I have known people who could read without hearing the sentence sounds and they were the fastest readers. Eye readers we call them. They can get the meaning by glances. But they are bad readers because they miss the best part of what a good writer puts into his work.

Remember that the sentence sound often says more than the words. It may even as in irony convey a meaning opposite to the words.

I must bear all that in mind more consciously than I usually do.

Matthew Paul, On Tom Paulin’s The Secret Life of Poems

I don’t worry too much about being formally consistent in my own writing. My aim, my hope, my work, is to discover and hear, line by line, whatever shape best suits what I am working on. But I do know that, like many writers, I can struggle with Faulkner’s murderous adage kill your darlings.

Which leads me to an old draft I struggled for many years to finish about a meeting between Milton and Galileo.

I should start by saying that I believe the subject of wonder is best approached from a variety of angles. The wider the reading net is cast—phenomenology, science, art, technology, literary criticism—the more essential and alive the exploration of its role in poetry becomes.

The problem was this: I had fallen into the trap of crowding a poem on the subject (how fantastically excellent is it that these two visionaries met?) with too many ideas on the subject of science, censorship, religion, and discovery. I would show you the draft, but it’s a hot mess of high lyric—layers and layers of frosting with no cake beneath.

What I actually needed was to stop reading and find an object around which to cement their interaction.

The breakthrough was a jug of water. It was hot in Italy, summer of 1638. It seemed plausible Galileo would have offered his new friend as much.

Thinking the words “jug of water” proved infinitely more useful than agonizing over form, or the elaborate metaphors and similes I had crafted, not intuited (I’m emphasizing here a kind of effort that isn’t always useful to us as writers).

A jug of water brought an end to my futile attempts at a fancy cosmological setup in the poem’s later stanzas, allowing the wonder I felt at these two men meeting in the first place to speak for itself…

Maya C. Popa, Wonder Wednesday

What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

I was reading this critical text on Emily Dickinson yesterday, and it was talking about how poets in the 1800s, specifically those writing in America around the time of the Civil War, were expected to be political, and how they often used both the private lyrical “I” speaker and the larger, national communal “we” voice—and how these two didn’t compete, necessarily, but also weren’t the same. Then I was thinking about how I’ve seen people complain about readers who are like “why is poetry so political these days, geeez, bring back the frost and the geese and the sunset,” and how those people have no concept of what poetry’s role has been in America and the world since… forever. That being said, each writer has to figure out for themselves what their “role” is, and I would say anyone who wants to write should most certainly write, be it about the geese and the frost or how Rome is burning. The harder part is about sharing your work. If it’s just the geese and the frost, your audience is going to be different than if it’s about how Rome is burning. No matter what, audiences will be critical. Ever since we started defining poetry as “the lyric” and the lyric as “overheard genius,” there has been a lot of pressure on people calling themselves poets. We don’t really draw lines anymore between “verse” and “poetry,” either, in the same way we did in the earliest colonial days in America. If you want people to read your work, then you should want them to get something out of it—each writer has their own “something,” and I hope they know what that is before they start sending their work out to publishers. But either way—write, writers, write!

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Kimberly Ann Southwick (rob mclennan)

Black Lawrence Press is having a sale on discounted poetry bundles in preparation for the Sealey Challenge. My own collection, Rotura, is part of the “Sealey Challenge 10 – Poets of Color” bundle. For more info on this sale, check out the BLP site.

Lastly, I had the honor of teaching for the Solstice low-residency MFA program’s summer residency last week. During this residency, amidst the rich conversations about poetry and creative nonfiction (the two genres I teach in), I was able to sit in on a craft class by essayist and novelist Xu Xi on “Writing the Intersection of the Public & Personal.” After the illuminating experience of the class, I have been engaging with samples of her work online. This essay is a good example of the dynamic range Xu Xi is capable of on the page as well as the richness of insight she offers her readers.

José Angel Araguz, Salamander virtual event & more!

During a recent poetry residency, we’d start off every day with someone offering a prompt that people could work with through the day or the week, if they wanted to. And we had good fun with it. It was a great way to remind ourselves that creative work is play! We should feel play-full as we make our art.

And I also was reminded of the section of the Robert Frost poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time” that says, “Only when…work is play for mortal stakes is the deed ever really done for Heaven’s and the future’s sakes.” And I was reminded, it’s good too to remember those mortal stakes.

By which I mean injecting also into our art the truths of our brief lives, the truths of our timeless humanity.

Marilyn McCabe, Singing this song for you; or, On the Work and Play of Writing

Last week I buried my longest lived guinea pig, Freddy, who died at seven years old. This week I buried my oldest rabbit, Dandelion, who died at just shy of ten years old. Last week was the week I handed in the first proper, book sized draft of The Ghost Lake to the editor who I’ll be working with at The Borough Press. I’m currently taking a few days off to decompress. But if you’re freelance yourself you’ll know that there’s really no such thing as time off. My compromise is an early start, a couple of hours keeping Spelt in control, checking in on my current course attendees, putting out fires in my inbox, before taking the rest of the day to walk, read, sleep. I worked Monday and Tuesday, I’ll work Friday. But in-between are two days where I can almost completely switch off from work and just be. I am spending a lot of time sleeping. I obviously needed it after running on deadline energy for the last nine months.

What a strange coincidence it was, then, that the link to my previous life should end at the same time as I moved through the first gateway of what I hope will be a new, more creative life. The handing in of the manuscript felt significant, was significant. This is the first time the book has been outside of my own head. I never actually thought I’d finish it. At one point I completely crumbled over it, but then pulled myself together and carried on just putting words on a page each day, until I reached more than 80,000 words.

I celebrated, as I have celebrated each step on this journey – being long listed in the Nan Shepherd prize, getting an agent, getting a book deal, the first slice of my advance arriving… with a bottle of bubbly wine and a note in my journal reminding myself to enjoy it.

Wendy Pratt, The Unexpected Legacy of Rabbit Ownership

I cannot describe Bangalore in terms of space or time. There is too much fluidity, too much distortion. I cannot reduce it to a beginning or a destination. It is more complex, more tangled than that. I cannot write of it as a whole or even as a part. It is both container and contained. I sieve it through language and meaning. What I am. In its words. In its verse. If anything, perhaps, it is a vowel. Nothing by itself. Creating other things. Joining other things. Sometimes a word, standing alone. Meaning nothing. Meaning me. Meaning another world.

There are streets here that collect my shadow. There are trees here that share my breath. There are skies here where everything I said is still an echo. There are waters here where everything I never said is still a possibility. […]

In the middle of this landlocked city, I built for myself an island. Separated from the ghosts who still live and the living who are no more than ghosts. Separated from things I shouldn’t remember and things I must not forget. Separated from time and space that works like a black hole. An island with a sliver of light. One source. One beam. One brightened wall. From that island, I could see the sky, the irregular slice of sky that appeared with its moon and sprinkling of stars. In the dark. From that island, I offered consonants. This city completed them all, made them into words. Made, out of dry alphabets and silence and hardness, poetry.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Interlude (48)

A lot of writers hate author questionnaires. I don’t. I have to get my thoughts together anyway about how I can help an ecopoetic book about women’s bodies, grief, witchiness, and fungi find audiences. It’s good to start early. But at least so far, I’m not feeling the anxious kind of ambition about Mycocosmic. I’m not sure if that’s because publication is far off or because I have exceptional confidence in this project or because I’m feeling older, which tends to shift the stakes. A bit of all three, probably.

Massachusetts Review recently published a spell-poem from the forthcoming book that’s very much about women’s bodies, grief, and witchiness (not fungi). “Message from the Next Life” is now available on their website with a recording (scroll down a bit and it’s on the right)–and the recording was hard to make, because it’s a tongue-twister of an alliterative sonnet! Another piece, first published in Kestrel, will be featured on Verse Daily sometime soon. And I’ve been corresponding with Mark Drew of The Gettysburg Review, who just took one of the Mycocosmic‘s best poems (I think) after some back-and-forth about revisions. He’s one of those rare solid gold editors who sees the better version of a poem within your good version and will take the time to coax it out. In this case, his edits made the poem a shade sadder. I’ve been writing mother-daughter poems that I wouldn’t have felt right about publishing before my mother’s death, but even now I can resist cutting down to the deepest darkness, it seems. For the poem’s sake, I’m glad he nudged me there.

Lesley Wheeler, Women working

Matthew Johnson grew up in New Rochelle, New York and Connecticut and now lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. A sports journalist, several poems reference baseball, which I’m not qualified to comment on. […]

“Far from New York State” is an engaging, direct collection that reveals a fondness for the state, even its uglier side. Johnson uses humour to make serious points about institutional and individual racism without ranting or being didactic. The poems do show a love for the city, its muses, sports and music while not glossing over the negatives from someone who wants readers to share in his enthusiasm, rather like baseball fans, even if supporters of the opposing team, can still agree on a player’s skills or what makes a good game.

Emma Lee, “Far from New York State” Matthew Johnson (NYQ Books) – book review

Somewhere in my head the wandering boys and the foxes are getting mixed up. There’s an Irish ballad called Sly Bold Reynardine, about a were-fox who seduces unwary maidens, lures them to his den on the mountains of Pomeroy and drowns them. And I remember that some people used to refer to the Faeries as ‘the good neighbours’ so as not to provoke them. There are poems here, and notes for the non-fiction book.

I feel as if I have been spinning my wheels on the whole writing thing for a long time, not only while my husband was in hospital, but since we moved, since I finished The Well of the Moon in fact. I’ve done a lot of reading, and a lot of editing, and a lot of planning and drafting and to-do lists. I went on a course last summer to learn how to write proper essays, only to be told I should ‘be more poet’.

It turns out to be right! There is a fox poem, possibly one of a sequence, and I’ve found my way in to the non-fiction. I’m following the ballads and the charms into the liminal spaces, renegotiating boundaries and allowing the poetry to shape the prose. It seems that if you find the form, the words flow much more freely, and I’m looking forward to finally making some progress with my own work.

Elizabeth Rimmer, Finding the Form

I don’t think I quite understood that Barbie’s body was amiss, that the strangely proportioned monstrosity meant for the male gaze and teetering on her tiptoes was supposed to be the “ideal” body. But then again, you got that shit everywhere. I think by the time my own body issues were kicking in, I was barely paying any attention to Barbie at all and there are probably far more sinister and immediate things to blame for the afflictions of girls and their bodies in the 1980s. Like the new pediatrician who urged my mother at 10 to put me on a diet to lose 20 pounds thus beginning a decade and a half of dysfunctional dieting. At least Barbie was shown as an independent woman with career ambitions, which I probably never realized was as subversive as it was for the time. We were, after all,  just a decade or so out of women actually being able to have credit cards without husband approval.  Everyone always talks now about “main character energy” and I don’t think we realized quite how much Barbie had. While she was often paired with Ken, she was just as often not. I think there was a Barbie friend that had a kid (or maybe I hallucinated it) but Barbie, despite lavish fantasy wedding dresses, was always a single girl and independent–also probably far more revolutionary than we thought. 

The coolest things I am seeing about the movie, which we are hoping to get to see in theaters, though I may have to go it alone or just wait til streaming due to J’s schedule, is that it seems to include everyone in on the Barbie train. not just statuesque blondes, but people of all races, body types, etc, all the main characters of their own stories. To Barbie, I may own my storytelling acumen and flair for dramatic plots, but also my interests in clothes and fashion since I too like to dress up for no good reason, and in fact, bought a Barbie pink sundress just lack week just in case we make it to the theater or just to wear out. I’ve often wondered if there was a writer Barbie what would she be wearing? Her accessories? No doubt a tiny bottle of Advil and a notebook with tiny page? A tiny laptop and cup of Starbucks? Self-doubt and imposter syndrome?

Kristy Bowen, life in plastic

What happens between you and your work on any given day really can be extraordinary. We all know this. Surely this is why we come to writing in the first place. We have all tasted those sparks of magic. We have held those fireworks in our hands, been stunned by their bold and crackling light.

Let’s not let professional ambitions take that away from us. Let’s never make up stories to tell ourselves, that we haven’t yet reached some essential place or yet arrived in some very-important velvet-roped section of the literary world. Let’s not berate ourselves over some fantasy about where we imagine we’re supposed to be at any given moment, or age, or stage in our lives.

It’s not necessary. It’s not even real.

What’s real is what happens with you, every time you sit down to write. Can you find that connection today? And come back tomorrow, and seek it out again?

Becky Tuch, Monday Motivation! With Joy!

Over the summer, I finished revising a children’s novel I worked on a few years ago, and now I’m sending queries to agents; I’m also working on my 4th poetry manuscript, revising and sending out.

Neither one am I doing with a mad fury, but a little at a time does add up. Now that we are starting back to homeschooling, I plan to get into my regular two-poems-a-month schedule of writing (and submitting my work to 5 places per month, if I can–Erika Dreifus’ Practicing Writer newsletter has been very helpful with steering me toward good markets!).

I also created a submissions calendar for myself, that includes things like grant deadlines, book contest deadlines, etc. I don’t send to very many of those so it’s not a very long list, but I hope that it keeps me from missing so many deadlines.

I’ve definitely had summers where I worked more intensely than this one; I think my energy just went other places–working on my house, on myself, playing with the kids, spending time as a family–and I had a lot less time to write than I could carve out for myself.

No matter. It was still a very good use of a summer.

Renee Emerson, End of Summer Writing Update

Heat making people do strange things—

hardcore graffiti artists getting day jobs animating Disney movies. Barbie trading in her heels for prison shoes.

Soul-crushing heat. High-pressure heat.

Rich Ferguson, Heat

The weather advisory is the same
as it was a few days ago—poor
air quality, visibility affected.

This evening, I would like to hear
your name floating through the smoke
carried from burning forests in another country.

I would tie one end of it to my wrist
and wait for it to lift me out what’s left
of this place I tried to cultivate into

a garden.

Luisa A. Igloria, Self-Portrait, in the Midst of Withering

Dear blog readers, I haven’t forgotten you–I just write my blog to you in my head while swimming, early in the morning. Twice now, I’ve gone swimming in the fog–once a drifty, blowy fog and today (was it today?) a stationary fog that soon disappeared. Since lap swimming is repetitive, I do lose track of days. It also becomes meditative. As the summer has progressed, that easy breathing thing has happened. I feel like I could swim forever. But this is sometimes followed by my nose having to remind itself not to breathe water, my body thinking it lives here now. […]

I have two poems in the current issue of Redactions, the Sitcom Issue, because my life is a sitcom (Mad About You) and a dark, quirky comedy (Everybody Loves Raymond if it was rebooted as a future White Lotus). To further mess things up, both of these began with biblical prompts, during Lent.

My husband had a birthday this week, and we celebrated by going to a poetry reading (he liked it!) and taking the poet and her husband out to dinner. The poet was Lynne Jensen Lampe–she came to our little public library from Columbia, Missouri–reading new poems, and poems from her new book, Talk Smack to a Hurricane. We have a robust reading series of local and regional poets, and, especially since our virtual programming during Covid, many far-flung poets, some, like Lynne, who still show up in person, and some who remain virtual. I’m delighted that Chicago poet Yvonne Zipter will come down in October. Really, it’s a fantastic series that doesn’t get much local media attention, but I am reading Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, thanks to my new pastor, and so may try to attempt some marketing badassery soon. Shonda makes me laugh out loud. Thank you, I needed that!

Kathleen Kirk, Red Hibiscus, Fog, Sitcoms, Shock, Badassery

Our holiday was lovely. Thanks to Kefalonia for being glorious, and for the loungers by the pool being very amenable to sitting on and allowing me to read. I worked my way through some of my TBR pile, as well as a number of cans of Greek lager. You’ll see the reading list in the usual place below. You might see the cans, cats and the books on my Instagram feed. See header for one of the excellent cats we met. We named him Baked Bean. […]

It was also lovely to read this interview in the Guardian with the legend that is Vini Reilly this week. He talks about walking away from the life he’s built as a guitar player after 60 years, and I enjoyed what he said about seeing guitarists playing in pubs that he thinks are better than him, but they don’t get the chance to make records. Is the poetry world any different?

Mat Riches, Scrappy do

–There was a booth where we could vote for our favorite tomato, advertised as a beauty contest.  The booth attendant gave us a ticket to drop in a cup.  I voted for the tomato least likely to win, small and ordinary.  My spouse voted for the one who hadn’t gotten any votes.

–As we left, we noticed a woman in a tomato costume.  Was she officially part of the event or just deeply in the spirit of the festival?

I savored our time there.  I have a feeling that some day soon we’ll look back with nostalgia, on a time  when we could enjoy a Saturday ramble through a farmer’s market, saying no thank you to cannabis infused iced tea and happily munching free tomato sandwiches.  We came home with a variety of veggies and some whoopie pies made by a young entrepreneur, and life seemed full.

Could I write a poem without sounding maudlin?  Or cliched?  I’m thinking about returning to the figure of Cassandra.  Maybe she’s given up making projections.  Maybe she sits on a deck overlooking the mountains, shelling beans that she grew, remembering a long ago day when the tomato sandwiches were free and the cost of so much modern life remained hidden.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Notes from a Tomato Festival

身のなかのまつ暗がりの蛍狩り 河原枇杷男

mi no naka no makkuragari no hotaru-gari

            complete darkness

            inside of me…

            firefly hunting

                                                Biwao Kawahara

from Haiku Dai-Saijiki (Comprehensive Haiku Saijiki), Kadokawa Shoten, Tokyo, 2006

Fay Aoyagi, Today’s Haiku (July 22, 2023)