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 past week, I was saddened to learn of the death of John Foggin, a one-of-a-kind poet from Yorkshire who I sense will be very, very missed in that part of the world. I loved his down-to-earth but always thoroughly researched and insightful blog, full of generosity and humility toward other poets, and I thought the poetry in his final collection, Pressed for Time—the only one of his I’ve read so far—was absolutely stunning, one of my favorite reads of 2022.
For those able to attend the celebration of his life on July 14, family members have blogged the details. For the rest of us, here’s a celebration of life, poetry, and embodied wisdom from poets around the world. Rest in peace, John, and thanks for all the light you brought into the world.
I remember a young woman dressed in velvet burgundy that I only saw from behind. The dress came off her shoulders in a deep V; she was bent close to hear what the not- yet-anointed Nobel prize-winning poet was saying. I still remember her exquisite skin: airbrushed before airbrushing existed. I watched as if through bulletproof glass.Susan Rich, Seamus Heaney: Dry Cleaning and a Nearly Unknown Poem
Whomever I was with that night, told me Heaney was the most famous living Irish poet and that he came to Cambridge every spring. It was 1989, Seeing Things was not yet published; The Spirit Level, still a few years off.
After that party, I would see Heaney in his oversized tweeds hurrying along Plimpton Street quite regularly. Usually, he’d be carrying his dry cleaning in a plastic cover, his arm straight out in front of him as if the suit were leading him down the sidewalk and not the other way around.
I learned he lived at Adams House on Bow Street directly across from my first apartment (an over-the-top economic divide existing from one side of the street to the other). I found it funny and rather embarrassing that across the street from this white-haired, world-famous poet, I was staying up into the early hours writing my first real poems.
I keep thinking about all the way we humans meet and how often we squander these meetings. Whether it’s inviting folks into a public space, at a dinner party, a coffee with friends, a presentation, a poetry reading. I mean, I have totally squandered these moments throughout my life. But how can I change that? If you have read the book The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker (mentioned on this blog before if you recall) you will have received many great tools to turn a gathering or a meeting into a beauty shock, really.
She talks about how we need to avoid having “housekeeping” details as our opening. She says instead, “your opening needs to be a kind of pleasant shock therapy.” She says, “It should grab people. And in grabbing them, it should both awe the guests and honour them. It must plant in them the paradoxical feeling of being totally welcomed and deeply grateful to be there.”
And then, and I love this, she talks about the giant vases of flowers at the Four Seasons. (In Edmonton, you might think about the Hotel MacDonald, or in Banff at the Banff Springs Hotel). She says these flowers are “honour-awing.” These flowers are “stunning and maybe taller than you, and that awes you, intimidates you, makes you remember that you don’t live like this back home. But of course the flowers are there for you, to honour you.”
I actually think having a giant painting of flowers in your home, or one by your door, can do the same thing. But you know that I am ENTIRELY BIASED WHEN I SAY THAT.
And you know what, I’m okay with that :)
What are other ways that we can honour and awe each other when we meet?
All I know is that I want to be part of that beauty shock therapy stuff. I want to honour-awe you. And then I want you to pass it on.
It’s something we can do.Shawna Lemay, Flowers to Honour and Awe
Summer flashes its shiny switchblade of long light, pries spring from its hinges, and slips boldly into its celebrated season.
Summer sings a radio-friendly popsong of let’s get it on. It rocks the mic with sugar-sweet honeysuckle harmonies.
Waves its freak flag of feeling good. Bonfires and festivals, Indigenous sun dancers and pagan revelers decked out in flower wreaths.Rich Ferguson, Summer 2023
School is finally done and the sun is shining. The weather has been amazing, so hot and clear. Not great for the garden or the forests to go so long without rain, but the long days of light and heat are a relief. Beach weather, park weather, proper summer weather while we off to enjoy it. […]
I’m enjoying what I’m writing now. My style has changed a bit over the past year. My poetic style is always changing, but I sometimes get caught in a loop of subjects or styles, writing very similar poems for a period and when something comes along to shake me up, I find it refreshing.
I use prompts to push me out of my rut. Writing from different points of view, occasionally trying a structured form (I’m currently trying to write a palindrome) and looking into unusual events for inspiration. I’ve even managed to put a bit of humour, sometimes black humour in my poems, playing with ideas that often aren’t found together.Gerry Stewart, Slowing Down into the Summer, Summer, Summertime
We’ve reached the point of tilt, when the earth falls towards the dark. Happy solstice. Yesterday I rose at 4am to drive down to the beach at Filey. I took my place on a memorial bench and sat, bleary eyed at first, then slowly coming alive in the light and warmth of the rising sun. I felt a genuine, primal sense of awe, as if I was connected to all the summer solstice sunrises that have ever been. The sun rose over Carr Naze, laying itself across the sea. I’d made a promise to myself that I would witness the solstice sunrise, rather than watching footage of Stonehenge, this year. I had promised myself the experience of magic – the early start, the silent streets, of being awake when other people are fast asleep and of seeing something utterly beautiful. I wanted to place myself before the sun in a ritual of my own making.
There were a few of us down there, a scattering of people taking their places to see the sun arrive on the longest day of the year. Afterwards I came home to the miracle of coffee and a purring cat, my husband softly sleeping, and I set to work and wrote until seven, after which I read and listened to the radio. It was the perfect way to see the longest day in. I like the idea of creating my own rituals.
Summer is a time when I revert to my child self. How I value not overthinking clothes; throwing on shorts and T-shirt and sandals and feeling bare skin against grasses and plants, feeling the soft shush of moving through long grass, the squeal of swifts overhead. Early summer mornings, when the world is fresh and dewy, the air filled only with birdsong and rose scent, there is such joy in the variety of green.Wendy Pratt, A Square Metre of Summer
I can hardly believe it’s summer. That’s a strange thing to say considering I’m a stalker when it comes to warm weather. I obsess over temps and hours of daylight on the weather apps all winter, a season I loosely define as “the months I need a heavy coat.” Living in Upstate NY, this means (to me personally) early November through late April or early May. So roughly half the year I’m dismayed by the cold and lack of light — and constantly monitoring for glimmers of hope.
And yet every year, when summer is finally here, I manage to be surprised. Not by the calendar. I understand how that works. What surprises me, always, is the extent of my relief. Well, relief and belonging, which I greet with both awe and gratitude, as when you’ve found something you thought you’d lost, something you knew may not be guaranteed.
The arrival of summer this year coincides with finishing my Gertie manuscript, which means I successfully immersed myself in (and stuck to!) the revision schedule I’d created for March, April and May. That type of discipline and focus was made possible, I believe, by a habit I’d established through work (January through April) with D. Colin on what she calls a 365 Journey. I ended up bowing out of that 365 accountability group because I was so deep in the revisions that I didn’t even want to talk about the process. However, I’m grateful for the experience and energy of that approach and will absolutely tap it again in the future.
For now, I’m reading, resting, keeping up with Morning Pages (now over 230 days) and doing some generative writing prompts to shift my brain back into the world in which I write new things.Carolee Bennett, hello, sunshine
The skies bend
their hammocks of rain.
Summer is a flag that unfurls slow and fast,
just as uncertain as we are.
A parent wheelsLuisa A. Igloria, Oasis
a chair-bound child through the clinic doors.
In terms of cancer diary facts:
1. My eyelashes are falling out now. Entering turtle-territory.
2. Hemorrhoids. No one mentioned hemorrhoids. Please.
Who benefits from decorum when talking about chemotherapy?
3. The most recent biopsy came back.
The second lump in the left breast is also cancerous.
4. Still waiting on the BCRA results.
5. I wake with headaches every single morning.
Sometimes at 2 a.m., again at 5 a.m.
I take pain relievers around the clock – staggering the different prescriptions. I take a nap when I need to. I take a walk with the dog when he won’t stop laying his snout over the keyboard to get my attention.
And I give everything I have to metaphors.
But I am grateful to have the play to work on now. B. is whispering in my ear that it is just a matter of “getting it done”. No excuses. Meet the deadline.
It’s almost 9 am. I’ve walked Leonard and clipped his nails. On my third cup of coffee now, I can settle down with the adaptation. I am honestly happy that I don’t make my living writing, because it makes the work that much more joyful. It’s a little revelation to myself after all these years. My motives are clear – if I ever had any doubts.
I can hear the rain coming down outside the window. Leonard is breathing heavily in his sleep.
Lear says, “When the mind’s free,/The body’s delicate.” I think there may be something to the idea that it is also true that the delicate body can free the mind.Ren Powell, Catching Up
‘In this mortal frame of mine which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices there is something, and this something is called windswept spirit for lack of a better name …‘ So said Basho in the opening to The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel, one of the travel sketches that preceded the more famous The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Basho acknowledges the odd fact that whatever we might pursue (in his case poetry) it’s never enough to truly satisfy the spirit.
A couple of weeks ago I bought a second hand bike – the mortal frame of my old one was beyond repair and I hadn’t used it in years. I’m now, very slowly, trying to get back into it. I took the above photo up at Dunford Bridge on the Trans Pennine Trail. I’ve been up there a few times now, seen a hare crouched in the grass, heard a cuckoo twice, watched endless curlews circling the moor, and come home tired but refreshed. I’m not intending going very far on my journey and won’t be kitting myself out in lycra, but I’m enjoying the weather, the peacefulness of the trail, and the sense of freedom that comes with getting out into open countryside under your own steam. To compliment that, here’s a lovely haiku from Penny Harter, whose book of haibun, ‘Keeping Time: haibun for the journey’ I’m reviewing at the moment. Apologies for taking the haiku out of context, but I liked the calm sense of purpose in it:
fog shroudsJulie Mellor, this mortal frame …
the field’s edge
we keep walking
This is the first really long road trip I’ve taken since I was 14. It’s feeling a bit revelatory.
The most striking thing about the miles we’ve covered so far is how empty of humans and the detritus of our civilizations they are. Miles and miles of nothing but open land. The highlight for me was a small group of horses living their best life somewhere in western Wyoming, running free, eating grass, no fences in sight.
The low point was a small town that used to be the home of a state penitentiary, which was operational until 1981. The main drag of the town was pocked with shuttered motels and empty restaurants. There was a neighborhood of what might have been charming homes. We’d hoped to eat there, but we couldn’t find any place we wanted to enter, and, honestly, the whole town felt creepy AF (even before we stumbled upon the penitentiary, which is two blocks off the main street) and we got the hell out of Dodge right after filling up our tank. (Later, I googled the penitentiary, and it IS creepy AF. Operational until 1981, with a grisly history. Now it’s a tourist attraction? And apparently haunted?) It was clear that the town was once thriving, but whatever it had was probably built on the misery of that prison. The whole thing left me feeling sad and icky and unsettled.
Driving through miles and miles (and miles) of land so different from what I know, I had a lot of thoughts about our country and its divisions. I won’t share them, as I know I don’t really know anything about what life is like in the places we’ve driven past, and they are all just speculation. I can say that I found myself having an easier time understanding why so many of us have such different world views; we are living vastly different lives. I knew that before Friday, but in a more abstract way. Something about driving through all these places makes it more concrete.Rita Ott Ramstad, On the road
Last week seemed to be a week of farewells.
There was the sad death of John Foggin, I didn’t know John, but his work was excellent and his website, The Cobweb, was an absolute trove and gift to beginners and old lags alike. His last full post from 2022 is just such a trove. Go, go read it. I’ll wait.
This week saw the final OPOI reviews from Sphinx. We knew it was coming, and it’s very much case of don’t be sad it’s over, just be glad you were there at the time. It will live on as an archive and as a way of approaching things.Mat Riches, For years I shrunk weekends
I want to believeCathy Wittmeyer, A Poem for My Sister, Listening in Heaven
that heaven is down on Earth
—here—where the light shaft
shoots through a downpour,
the rainbow, the charcoal sketched
rain cloud, the snowbell piercing ice
to make way for the grape hyacinth,
the snowflake, the whiteout
that in the hours we spent on our bellies
in the sun on the front lawn
when we were six and seven
searching for four leaves
among the clover blooms, how
we weren’t looking for luck,
but the Heaven we always believed in.
Yesterday, these two lines came to me. Those of you not steeped in feast days or prophets or the early parts of New Testament Gospels may not recognize John the Baptist, whose feast day was on Saturday–shorthand for saying that I wasn’t surprised when these lines floated up through my brain late yesterday as I took a walk: I have eaten your locusts and wild honey / and I am not impressed.
This morning, I got rid of the second line, and now the stanza looks like this:
I have eaten your locusts and wild honey
And created a new menu with the bones
Of all the deer killed by carelessness.
And then I wanted to write a bit more, but I wasn’t sure what. I peered into my dirty coffee cup and the next stanza emerged:
I drink my wine out of a dirty
coffee mug and bathe in the creek
that comes from the cooling
ponds at the nuclear plant.
I have no idea where this poem is heading or if it is going anywhere. I’ll keep the document open in case anything else bubbles up. I’m composing on the computer instead of by hand, and for the past few months, I haven’t written by hand. Hmmm–is this change permanent?Kristin Berkey-Abbott, John the Baptist Inspired Stanzas
submersibleJim Young [no title]
the tip of the iceberg
of our anxiety
The solstice came this year gently – a little overcast, temperatures in the 70s, and the sunset lasted til almost past 9 PM. We celebrated more simply this year, a trip to 21 Acres, a local farmer’s market, where we bought local honey, cherries, peas, and carrots, and a sunset spent at the lavender farm down the street, where the blooms have just started on the oldest lavender plants. It was lovely to feel the grass, smell the lavender, feel the sun – not too hot or punishing – and welcome in this fraught season. (Fraught because of the wildfire risk and because MS patients tend to [fare] worse in the heat.) […]
I am grateful to WICN and Mark Lynch for interviewing me for their station about my new book, Flare, Corona. It was a pleasure – we talked about a shared love of 50’s sci-fi movies, health crises, and more. We actually went on talking after we were off the air, and it was so fun, It felt like talking to a friend, which means that guy is really good at his job!
Here’s the link to listen to the whole thing: Jeannine Hall Gailey – 90.5 WICN Public Radio
Anyway, I hope you enjoy and it gives you some insight into the book, writing during a pandemic, and killer shrews.Jeannine Hall Gailey, Welcome Summer! Celebrating the Solstice and a New England Radio Interview about Flare, Corona
I’m drinking tea and watching the sunrise and I feel like writing a blog post and taking a moment to process and share some poetry and thoughts and photos here on my blog from the amazing Windrush 75 concert at The Royal Albert Hall before it fades into memory, and before I jump into the next shiny thing. You will find more clips on my insta and tiktok and twitter but I have always liked to treat this blog like a scrap book, keeping an archive of highlights and my adventures in making books and poetry and gigs over the decades. Thank you to anyone following this page, hello to any new people who find me here. Welcome.
Firstly, thank you for all of your comments and messages about this one gig and poem. I was blown away by your messages, thank you. I was so honoured and so excited to be invited by Trevor Nelson to perform and write a piece for the Windrush 75 Concert. I was also nervous about it as I knew I wanted to write something new for it. I was not sure where to begin to try to capture this moment in history and experience, and my own feelings about Windrush and heritage and ancestry and migration and colonialism and empire in a poem to be broadcast on the BBC and perform to peers and elders on such a big stage.
I left London and headed south to perform two lovely shows in Exeter and Totnes and stayed down there for a while with dear friends on the coast. I looked at the Devon skies and seas and sun rises and went deep into the themes of this poem and the process. I knew right away that I wanted to fill the Royal Albert Hall with the ocean, with timelessness and the weight of ocean water and our conversation with it.
I wanted to share in that united feeling that we are not all in the same boat, and that so many of us came here by boat, and that many are still arriving by boat, and how we are all connected in blood and saltwater. I wanted to celebrate that we share the same time in history, that we share an ancient resilience and courage. As some of you know I am currently working on the second Mrs Death Misses Death novel and so this was setting the tone for me and leaking into my writing, I was visualising and dreaming of Mrs Death filling the Albert Hall with ocean, with ancestors and ghosts, with loss and grief, and with BIGlove, ONE Love.Salena Godden, Poem: My Heart Is A Boat | Windrush 75 | The Royal Albert Hall
“Genetic memory” was inspired by the theory that memories may be inherited, and that perhaps we “remember” our ancestors’ formative experiences. The details in the poem are pulled from my grandparents’ lives. For example, my father’s father, Raymond Edward Smith, was the first Columbus, Ohio, resident reported killed in action at Pearl Harbor. On Christmas Eve, his parents were informed that it was a mistake—their son was alive. My grandfather never spoke about Pearl Harbor, but reading about genetic memory, I wondered: Could I be carrying traces of experiences like this one? What if?Maggie Smith, Behind-the-Scenes Look: “Genetic memory”
This is a poem about me – the poetic I is also the actual I in this poem – listening to a particular song by one of my favourite bands. It’s my thoughts on the song itself, and what it meant to me in 2019 when I listened to it and had a moment of clarity. I wrote it for myself, not publication, but when I decided to share some of my work, this was included. There’s a lot more to it than that, obviously…
Firstly the song I was listening to. William’s Last Words is the final track on the Manic Street Preachers 2009 album Journal for Plague Lovers and is sung not by James Dean Bradfield – lead singer, huge rasping soul voice – but by Nicky Wire, the bass player with a softer, less confident delivery. The lyrics to the song, and all the songs on this album, were recovered from notebooks left by the band’s former guitarist and childhood friend, Richey James Edwards, who had gone missing fifteen years earlier.
The lyrics read like a goodbye message, a break-up letter, a suicide note: given the context of the album, it feels like a final note from Richey himself. But it’s actually a great example of editing, as the original typewritten notes for the song show something very different – lines and phrases have been taking from what seems to be a vignette with allusions to Launce Olivier’s film The Entertainer, about a music-hall star. And when you find that out, it does seem a little artificial, but the words that remain, the poignancy, the fact they got Nicky to sing it, it all makes for a song that is a beautiful as it is sad, as natural as it is manufactured.
Why was this important to me? Why did I write a poem about it, and not an essay?
In August 2019 I was hospitalized in Cardiff with Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia – an incredibly rare and easily fatal form of blood cancer. And the drugs weren’t working. My mental health was suppressed by Lorazepam, Diazepam, and Prozac. I refused to get angry. I couldn’t be happy, but I couldn’t cry. And my god I needed to cry so bad.Drop-in by Jamie Woods [Nigel Kent]
I’ve got five visual poems from the ‘Classic Crimes’ series in the new Seneca Review. These were accepted last year and it’s great to see them out. I got to see them in the issue, my mother having forwarded one I had sent to her house. Generally when a print magazine sends me a copy in Germany I end up paying customs on it, so not to seem ungrateful but I ask that no one do it anymore.
I like the batch Seneca took! The poems are: Without Speaking, Side-Wisps(pictured), I Shook My Head, To Be Deplored and Spell. They’ll go up in color online. In the print issue they are in b/w, which I thought they might not come off well. But they look fine.
(I’ve always wondered, on that note, what Hotel Almighty looks like on Kindle. I realized well after publication that it’s all in b/w.)
I put them all up on Instagram over the past few days if you visit there. If you don’t mind the explosion of ads. If they are ads? It seems more like being force-fed cat and baby videos.Sarah J Sloat, The Mustaches of Scoundrels
A funny thing did happen the other day, I suddenly wrote four poems – a sort of sequence I suppose – out of nowhere. But I haven’t really given poetry writing a lot of headspace lately. The ‘sudden burst’ actually came after listening to an online book launch by Pindrop Press. I was enjoying poems by Lydia Harris, and was inspired enough to buy her collection, Objects of Private Devotion. I haven’t started it yet though, mainly because I’ve been ploughing though historical novels to try to gauge where mine sits. But also, I have two poetry books to review for the Frogmore Papers, plus Jill Abram‘s debut collection Forgetting My Father (Broken Sleep) waiting to be read. Patience!
Another project I’m involved with at the moment is an anthology that the Hastings Stanza is putting together, to be published in October under the Telltale Press imprint. There are four of us on the editorial “committee” and at the moment I’m busy on the typesetting. I think the standard of poems is pretty high, though I say so myself, so it’s a pleasure to work on.Robin Houghton, Midsummer update: poetry projects, novel stuff, podcast…
Catherine Truman and I have been working together on projects bridging art and science since 2006. Here is a glimpse of our current project, The Taken Path. This is a speculative, durational project that hangs of a poetic idea: what would we notice if we walked the same path, once a month over the course of a year and filmed the journey? […]
Together, the two videos attempt to illustrate the largely unsolvable problem of representing the uniqueness, the ephemerality and perceptual uncertainty of lived experience. We cannot attend to everything that happens around us and we cannot fully portray those elements of our experience that do take our attention, form memories, generate lasting significance.Ian Gibbins, The Taken Path: a durational project with Catherine Truman
I’m intrigued by Quietly Between (Fort Collins CO: A Viewing Space, 2022), a quartet of solicited poem sequences and photography by American poets Megan Kaminski, Brad Vogler, Lori Anderson Moseman and Sarah Green that each respond to the same very particular prompt. As the original prompt, included at the back of the collection, opens:
15-25 images/cards (combination of text and image).
Begin with place and time.
Place(s): where you are/were. Both text and photos could be of your present place. Or one element is, and the other draws from something else.
Time: some element of time is incorporated into the project. In the film All the Days of the Year, Walter Ungerer returns to the same place in Mount Battie, Camden, Maine every day for one year. He sets up his camera, and takes thirteen, ten second shots while turning the camera clockwise. […]
Via the poetic sequence, each of these four poets offer their variation on the stretched-out lyric sketch, allowing this collection to emerge into a book about being present in temporal and physical space, each poet blending lyric and photographic attention from their own particular American corners, across a quartet of American states moving straight west from the Midwest to the Coast.rob mclennan, Quietly Between: Megan Kaminski, Brad Vogler, Lori Anderson Moseman and Sarah Green
First up is a shout-out to Goran Gatalica who was kind enough to share his haiku collection, Night Jasmine (Stajer Graf) with me. This multilingual translation collection (the haiku are translated from the original Croatian into English, French, Italian, Czech, Hindi, and Japanese) is filled with vivid examples of contemporary haiku navigating traditional themes with a contemporary sensibility.
The book is framed within the cycle of seasons, starting with spring and ending in winter. Here is a selection of four haiku, one from each season:
empty commuter train –
listening to spring drizzle
through an open window
August flood –
a softened meadow
reflects the stars
mother’s death –
I fold the first autumn rain
in my handkerchief
family reunion –
the half-frozen pond
Across these four haiku, one can get a sense of the sensibility Gatalica works with throughout Night Jasmine. There’s the haiku that frames an immediate sensation, as in the first one here which lingers over a moment of rain.
One sees the theme of rain come up again in the “August flood” and “first autumn rain” of the second and third haiku above. Rain continues to change life, but not suppress it; even in the grief of the third haiku, there is the animation of the folding handkerchief.
No rain in the last one here, but water is present in the “half-frozen pond.” What I love in this last one is the way the animation and presence is implied in the reflections on the pond, of fire, of the reunion itself.
To read more haiku by Gatalica go here. To learn more about Night Jasmine as well as to check out a reading of the collection, go here and here, respectively. Lastly, if you’re interested in a copy [of] the book, reach out to me via my contact form and I’ll put you in touch with the poet.José Angel Araguz, shout-outs: haiku, flight, & opportunity
Patricia Smith has collected over 200 cabinet cards, cartes de visite, ambrotypes, daguerreotypes and tintypes from garage and vintage sales, online markets and estate sales. However, only a few images had names, and often just a first name. A studio address might offer a location. “They are wraiths, their stories growing dim”. Smith’s mother moved from Alabama to Chicago. Ashamed of her impoverished roots, her mother severed her past, refusing to put names to the people in photos. Actions that also severed her daughter from history. These poems put imaginary voices to the photos, sometimes drawing on the location to incorporate a historical event such as a yellow fever outbreak in Memphis or lynching in Virginia. […]
Publishing the images alongside the poems gives readers the opportunity to see how they complement each other. Each poem gives voice to the silent images, left without name and without family connections. The collection is about more than the featured photographs. It’s a reminder of how families were cut from their roots and exploited. How, in an effort to fit in with a white community, people purposely lost their origins and sometimes their names. The difficulty of tracing family trees when names are lost or changed, means most give up. It can also cause friction between generations as younger generations research a past older generations deliberately discarded. Patricia Smith empathically gives the people in the photographs voices, succinctly conveying what might have been their stories.Emma Lee, “Unshuttered” Patricia Smith (TriQuarterly Books, Northwestern University Press) – book review
The eponymous figure from Grünbein’s sequence’s 11th poem,‘Hans im Glück’, draws on one of the stories in The Children’s and Household Tales of the Brothers Grimm (1812). In the original, Hans has anything of value taken from him, bit by bit, yet he remains optimistic, refusing to acknowledge reality. Within the context of Porcelain, Grunbein treats this is as an additional image of the myth of the city of Dresden as undeserving victim. Interestingly, the same figure appears in Ulrike Almut Sandig’s collection, but her presentation of Hans is more poignant, less ironic, as even the boy’s language is stripped from him and he tries to write a letter to a loved one: “what are you up to? // + esp: where r u? / ru ru // ru”. In the context of I Am a Field Full of Rapeseed… , the boy might be thought of as a refugee, forcibly having his culture and language stripped from him, though one of the strengths of the poem is that it also works as an updated fairy tale, a little myth of loss and diminished presence with more universal application. Such re-purposing of several of Grimm’s tales is one of the most striking things about this collection. Sandig announces in another poem, “we find ourselves deep in the future of fairy tale” (‘the sweet porridge’) and she, like Angela Carter before her, redeploys the fairy tale’s surreal narratives, bold characterisation, its humour and violence, its symbolism and moral intensity for her own purposes.Martyn Crucefix, Greedy alpha-creatures: the poetry of Ulrike Almut Sandig
Through her erstwhile directorship of Malika’s Kitchen, staging of the highly successful ‘Stablemates’ series of readings and ever-supportive presence at many poets’ launch events and other readings, Jill Abram, as much as anyone in the UK poetry community, has championed, and continues to champion, its happily increasing diversity of outstanding voices.
As an exceptional poet in her own right, Jill’s poems have been appearing with increasing frequency in high-quality journals in the last few years. It’s therefore excellent news that Jill’s debut publication, Forgetting my Father, has recently appeared from Broken Sleep Books. It’s available here, with an attractive cover designed by Broken Sleep’s owner and principal editor, Aaron Kent. It consists of 23 tremendous poems about family, Jewishness, bereavement, the passage of time and much besides; above all, how memories, and their jewel-like details, still colour the present.Matthew Paul, On Jill Abram’s ‘Inheritance’
A year ago this month, Gina Wilson died. The two of us met just over a decade ago on the Writing School run by Ann and Peter Sansom of The Poetry Business. We were both psychotherapists, working in private practice.
Gina was published first as a children’s writer – novels (Faber), poetry (Cape), picture books (Walker Books). Her adult poems are ‘complex, though deceptively simple’ and ‘tough and compelling, no verbiage, no sentimentality’ (Kate Clanchy).
Gina’s poems ‘lure you into thinking you’re on safe, possibly domestic territory. Then they catch you unawares, taking off at an unexpected, often surreal tangent.’
I am grateful to her family for permission to share three poems from Gina’s poetry pamphlets (Scissors Paper Stone, HappenStance, 2010; It Was And It Wasn’t, Mariscat Press, 2017.) [Click through to read.]Fokkina McDonnell, Photograph with a Very Small Moon
Like jokes, poems have finely tuned relationships to time. They are, like music, unfolding in a culture of time, of kinds of time and their corresponding effects. They are, like heartbeats, rhythmic or arrhythmic. In her research into medieval wonder, medievalist Carol Walker Bynum argued that the wonder reaction is a significance reaction—our experience of wonder is an instinctive recognition of meaning. Our experience of that meaning, as I’ve argued elsewhere, would be different were the eventual end of all feeling not guaranteed (more on mortality and wonder here).
But, we’re alive for now—so, the issue gets crafty. Since wonder is fundamentally a question of vision in its widest sense, we are left to ponder “the zodiac of [our] own wit” (Sir Philip Sidney). Whatever mental constellations we report, we must also be able to recognize a sky beyond them.Maya C. Popa, Wonder Wednesday
So look, I’m not going to try to bullshit you into saying that either one of these poems is good. I don’t usually do the good-bad dichotomy with poems to begin with. The reason this newsletter is called “Another Poem to Love” instead of something like “Great Poems You Should Read” is that I figured out a long time ago that there are a lot of poems out there that just aren’t for me, and that doesn’t make them bad. It just makes them not for me. Like I said earlier, people are wired differently.
But when it comes to the question of which poem is more interesting, I think the one done by the Vogon Poetry Generator wins easily. I mean at least it’s weird, and the closing line, “Corrupt, corrupt brilliance? That’s what a slug’s life is about? Really.” is jarring and funny. And if you’re high, it’s probably hilarious. Somebody do that and report back, would you?
Whereas the ChatGPT one is predictable. The most fun line in there is “When Vogons come, plug up your holes” but only if you read it with a dirty mind. Which you should. That’s my definitive poetry statement here. If you can read lines of a poem with a dirty mind, you should. Discourse!Brian Spears, So Long and Thanks For All the Fish
Back in 2014, a reply-all unsubscribe outbreak on the Malahat Review listserv brought such joy to my heart that I wrote a found poem compiled from the various replies. You can read that poem here.
One might have thought that in the intervening nine years, the Malahat Review would have addressed this flaw in their listserv system but, bless them, it appears they did not. We’re back at it, and the replies are even more confused, angry and conspiratorial this time around (this is Pierre Poilievre’s Canada we’re living in, after all).
Rhonda Ganz has stepped up to write a found poem for this year’s meltdown. I present it below. If you’d like to contribute your own Malahat Review listserv found poem, please email it to me at roblucastaylor(at)gmail(dot)com and I will post it here. And most importantly, enjoy the madness while it lasts. It will be another nine years before we get to do it again!
[Five more found poems have come in since this post. Visit Rob’s blog Roll of Nickles to read them all.]Rob Taylor, this makes me nervous
For all my time with others, I still feel I move about in the world alone–this is true when it comes to writing, to social things, to work, to love. Even in love, I am resistant to giving up parts of myself–my peace and privacy that only usually exists when no one else is in the room. It’s never really loneliness, not in the moment, though I have been lonely. Acutely so after the death of my mother especially. Like a gaping hole of loneliness. Cosmologically lonely, if that makes sense. Absolutely lonely, though I was surrounded by family and friends and partners. It was like someone had torn a hole in the universe and all the air was bleeding out. Time closed it, but it still yawns and gapes every once in a while, though just as often in a group as alone. Sometimes more so in a group of people, especially ones where she should have been. My dad is different..a more acute and situation-specific kind of lonely, but still with sharp edges.
I frighten myself sometimes, with my love of being alone, which feels enjoyable yet wrong somehow. Articles crop up in my feed occasionally about the importance of being social animals. How much I relish my days alone and uninterrupted with nothing but cats for company. I enjoy the company of people, some exquisitely, some more than others, but I am most myself when alone. It’s the baseline. The blank state to be returned to necessary for creativity and productivity. Which may be why introverts love midnights so much when it seems the entire world is sleeping but them.Kristy Bowen, aloneness vs. lonely | the introvert heart
Haven’t I lived at
different distances from myself? Alone and
young and afraid, I didn’t let myself too close.
Who would want the mirage to unravel? When
I could bear to say it aloud, to myself, find
words for estrangement, abandonment, apathy,
find words to console those words, I began to
tolerate myself, in small doses. Before the sink
holes opened again. What is the antonym of
father? Of mother? What is the colour of
disaffection? The man is smiling at me, watchingRajani Radhakrishnan, Part 52
my experiments. I wonder what he sees. How far
away he is. How far away I am. What is the perfect
distance for the surreal to sharpen into truth?
natsuzora e morote age dappi suru shôjo
raising both arms
to the summer sky
a girl casts off her skin
from Haiku, a monthly haiku magazine, August 2022 Issue, Kabushiki Kaisha Kadokawa, TokyoFay Aoyagi, Today’s Haiku (June 24, 2023)