A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. This edition is based on two week’s worth of posts, since last Sunday I was off on holiday. But since I keep to my rule of no more than one post per blogger, it does an even poorer job than usual of representing the richness and variety of posts in my feed. So if you read something you like, remember there’s likely to be quite a bit more where that came from.
September evening —Bill Waters, September evening
a moth flies into
Suddenly the two stately trees
outside my window are shot through
with sprays of gold. My heart rails
against the turning season
like a child resisting bedtime, but
the trees hear the shofar’s call.
Come alive, flare up, be
who you are: let your light shine!
The katydids and crickets singRachel Barenblat, Now
the time is now, the time is now.
It wasn’t until Thursday I actually had a morning to write. It made the writing I accomplished that day a tiny bit sweeter. I had worked hard, earned a small pay check, earned the time to commit to my calling. Amidst the exhaustion, there was a sense of accomplishment, I can work and single parent and write. Maybe not to the extent I would prefer on all sides, but it is possible, messy, tiring, but possible.Gerry Stewart, Juggling it All
Fittingly, there’s been a trend on Twitter at the moment, maybe it circles around regularly, but I’m a newbie remember, of writers posting about procrastination, how they are not writing. Is it guilt that makes these writers post this type of self-depreciating post, to shame themselves into writing? Or is it to gain commiseration or likes because we all get distracted by research rabbit holes or social twitterings sometimes? Both probably.
There’s a story told about Lucille Clifton–it may or may not be literally true, but it points to a truth for many of us. Someone asked why she wrote short poems when she was younger and longer poems as she got older. I suspect the questioner was expecting an answer that had something to do with wisdom and skill.Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Long Page Poetry Morning
Instead, Lucille Clifton talked about the lives of her children shaping the short poems in terms of the amount of time she had to get thoughts on paper.
I, too, tend to write poems that are shorter. Part of it’s habitual, part of it has to do with how much time I have, and part of it has to do with ideas that run out of steam so the poem is over. Most of my poems are a little longer than an 8 x 11 sheet of paper with regular lines.
Yesterday I wrote 4 pages. Will it all be one poem? I don’t know, but it was an amazing experience.
I had been having a good poetry writing morning, after weeks of feeling dry and drained when it comes to writing and life in general. Yesterday I had already written one poem and some various lines when I decided to freewrite a bit about harvest moons and harvests and elegies and prophets. The freewriting didn’t really go anywhere, but all of a sudden whole stanzas popped into my head. I wrote and wrote–4 pages worth. Wow.
And then I kept my legal pad nearby. I’d do something else, and then another stanza popped into my head. It was great.
I was thinking about how it’s the 15th anniversary of the dancing girl press chapbook series, and realized that also makes it the 15th birthday of my first chap bloody mary.Kristy Bowen, all sugar, all milk
In the spring of 2004, a lot was going on. I’d been editing wicked alice for a couple years at that point and had a dream of a possible print operation companion. I was finishing out my first year of grad school getting my MFA and had started sending out my first full-length mss.. I had just won a pretty big Chicago based prize and the 1000 bucks attached to it (and thus had a little wiggle money to devote to poetry).
The previous year, Moon Journal Press had taken my first chap, The Archaeologists Daughter, but it would still be another year before it was published. I was doing a lot of readings locally and fending off incredibly flattering inquiries about whether I had a book people could buy. Also engaging in a flourishing online writing community where everyone was always trading work. I thought to myself, if this press thing was going to be a go, I might want to start with issue-ing something that, if I botched it or found it horrible, only I would be affected. It actually worked out pretty well–since I was clueless, I taught myself how to layout something that could be manually double sided (something almost comical in these days of duplex booklet printing). I bought some nice resume parchment paper for a the cover, used the library’s pamphlet stapler, and I had a book.
On August 30, Praxis Magazine Online published the first digital chapbook in the 2019/2020 Poetry Chapbook Series, edited by JK Anowe. If you haven’t seen it already, you don’t want to miss BOOK OF THE MISSING by Heidi Grunebaum.
And here, at the beginning of this series, I am reminiscing a little, and want to share a bit of the history. In 2015, Praxis Magazine‘s publisher Tee Jay Dan (Daniel John Tukura) asked me if I’d be open to coming on as an editor…and I was worried about the time commitment, worried about the amount of emotional and mental investment it takes to be on the team of an online literary and arts journal. I was already (and still am) on staff at Right Hand Pointing, where editor Dale Wisely gave me an opportunity to learn how to BE an editor…with integrity, discretion, and compassion. And I’d already learned that it takes a LOT of hard work, and that many of the people who submit to journals don’t realize how much work goes into it, how much of their own time editorial team members at online journals have to dedicate to bring other people’s works to publication. (I know I certainly didn’t have any concept of the time commitment involved while I was still submitting poems to journals, but not volunteering at a journal myself.)
So I’d declined Tee Jay’s invitation initially, not feeling sure I was prepared to dedicate that kind of time.Laura M Kaminski, BOOK OF THE MISSING by Heidi Grunebaum…Praxis Magazine Online digital poetry chapbook
I’d been working on a poetry feature at Escape Into Life—of poems with birds in them—when the Audubon Society informed me, via Facebook, that we were coming up on National Wildlife Day, so why not celebrate with birds?! Happy National Wildlife Day! And Poetry Someday here in my blog. And Random Coinciday! (It’s fun to be blogging again!) (Where was I?!)(Oh, yeah.*)Kathleen Kirk, Birds of a Feather
Please enjoy Birds of a Feather: Poetry & Art at Escape Into Life! The flamingo painting you see here is by Ilya Zomb.
*I have been oddly busy in a number of different ways. I told you about walking in the Labor Day Parade, twice, and that was only this past Monday. Over the last few years, I have walked in many local parades and attended various meetings, vigils, rallies, and marches because OMG, I have to do something, right?! Writing poetry and submitting it got a little pushed to one side, but that’s started up again, as has my heart, and creativity pushed on me enough to put me back in a play or two. My body, again, had to do something.
Today I began walking the precinct again, collecting signatures (3) to run again as Democratic Precinct Committeeperson—to help get out the vote on March 17, 2020 and November 3, 2020. Hoping to help turn things around.
Yes, submission season for poets has started in earnest, and I’ve been revising my two book manuscripts, and writing new poems, and gathering poems into groups for different journals. I’m also ready to start reading for real again – I mean, doesn’t September suggest the reading of serious literature, for things that make you think? What are you reading to get you in the mood for fall?
Thinking hard about where to send book manuscripts and which journals to send new poems. It reminds me of the birds showing their plumage and the flowers showing off their brightest color right before they disappear. We are all trying to get noticed, poets, birds, petals – an evolutionary imperative. I think that the last couple of years have given me more perspective, but also given me the desire to aim a little higher, work a little harder on making the poems and manuscripts the best they can be. When my brain is working, and I have energy, I have to remember to work during those times. With multiple sclerosis, you can’t take emotional or mental energy for granted.
There’s a certain amount of luck, chaos, and sheer force of will involved in sending out your work and getting published. Submitting poems during a thunderstorm seems somehow appropriate.Jeannine Hall Gailey, Writing from Inside the Thunderstorm, Fall Color, and Submission Season
Sometimes we will undoubtedly measure ourselves against others and fall short, but other times, as we see in sports and other competitions it will be inspiring, just the nudge we need to make it across the finish line.
Frankly, making a living from poetry is a rare accomplishment. Still there are professors of literature, song lyricists and even those who write for greeting card companies. it is not impossible, but also, I think, not a true measure of success.
Success in poetry may be far more elusive than in other fields. It is likely that more than half of Americans could not name the current poet laureate. So if fame is your criteria for success then perhaps you could consider being a fiction writer instead… But if one of your poems causes your audience to laugh out loud, or conversely, moves someone to tears, then you have succeeded. And if sitting down with your pen, and a blank page before you, words tumbling out, into stanzas, rhyme, free verse, cadence and chorus, if that excites and satisfies you then you are already a successful poet.What Constitutes Poetic Success? – guest blog post by Kathy Lundy Derengowski (Trish Hopkinson’s blog)
I’m in this place of doubt — not necessarily doubt about my work, but doubt about my ability to understand what in the work is working. And what isn’t. I know I’ve been here before. I know the mood has passed. I don’t know if I had discovered some way out of this fog, or whether it’s just time, and distraction. I’ve forgotten. I know I come back to two things: that time is the best editor; and that there is something at gut-level that knows things about my work. But when time and gut still says it likes a work that has been getting rejected for years? I know I’ve written in this very space about honing one’s own editorial sense. But can I really believe myself? I dunno.
Rational Self rolls her eyes.
The editing process takes inner calm, perspective, and confidence. This is especially true when it comes to “knowing” that something is ready to send out. My own process is too often to send stuff out too soon, get it back rejected, and suddenly see a new editing angle. But hey, it’s a process. But there are some times in which I just can’t muster up the guts to do good editing on my own work, or see it with a sufficiently cold eye. (And I do think there are some of my works that I’ll just never get perspective on. I’m just going to love their flawed selves and that’s it. I’ll tuck them into a manuscript somehow or incorporate them into a visual project maybe. But I won’t abandon them to my C-level folder! I won’t!)
A friend of mine who breeds and raises dogs talks about puppy panic periods: something a puppy did without fear a day before suddenly turns it into a whites-around-the-eyes, stiff-legged-no-way-I-ain’t-doin’-that trembling mess, and pretty soon pretty much everything freaks it out. The periods generally only last a few days, although the puppy might have another such period some time later in its development. I think I have puppy panic periods throughout my whole life. Different things set me off at different times (there are some things, of course, that set me off EVERY time). (Spider!) I think I must be in one now.Marilyn McCabe, Down to the Crossroads; or, Confidence and the Editing Process
I’m doing final edits on my forthcoming poetry book, The State She’s In, this week. Hard work, but fun, too.Lesley Wheeler, Work: 25 notions & reveries
We have a launch date for the poetry book: March 17th, with prelaunch copies available at AWP!
This poetry book, my fifth full-length collection, feels like a big one.
Everything feels momentous right now. Cusp, limen, hinge.
My cat Ursula isn’t interested. She alternately sits on my neck, so I can’t type this post, and bites my toes, so I can’t type this post.
When my daughter was applying for policy jobs in D.C., she felt anxious about it. Understandable, I thought–what a transition!–but I also admit I felt impatient. What would be the next step in her life, and therefore in mine?
When she started applying for teaching jobs instead, her anxiety shifted to excitement. (Oh, I thought: it wasn’t just anxiety before, but inner struggle over a deeper uncertainty.) This Thursday, exactly one week after submitting her first four teaching applications, everything clicked. She was hired by a progressive preschool, a place that seems like a great fit for her–to start five days later. Double yikes.
Follow the excitement is a pretty good life motto. It’s certainly a good way to write. If a project feels bogged down, I try to pivot, play around, think about what would make it fun again.
Paychecks are important; doing useful work in the world is important. But the biggest question on my mind (besides, um, can I really meet all my obligations this school year?) is: how can I make these sad, hard, exhausting, exciting, whirlwind changes also, somehow, fun?
When in crisis, I’m especially thankful for poetry. Writing poetry helps me to sit with my emotions and accept them and mull them over in a way I don’t know that I would without poetry. To set that darkness echoing…
One of the hospital psychologists, on her rounds stopping by patient rooms to make sure the parents aren’t suicidal (I think that is the main goal of the screening), I told her a little bit about my feelings of anxiety, especially at night, my heart beating so fast and the breathlessness, and she reassures me how normal it is, and said that having my children must help me. I had not thought of that but they certainly do–when I’m taking care of my girls, it is just next thing to next thing, no time to sift around in the mucky waters on the edges of the nihilistic abyss I tend to skirt when..well when these hospitalized babies tend to happen.
When I do want to wade a little deeper, I feel like poetry is a good way to do it–sort of a rope around the waist you can use to pull yourself back out. Not that I write any of this to cause anyone to worry about me–if I weren’t writing about it, then that might be cause for worry. But writing about it, for me, is sorting through it, categorizing, turning it over in my hands. And when I do that I’m not afraid of it anymore.Renee Emerson, writing through it
Tony Harrison wrote that in the silence that surrounds all poetryJohn Foggin, A loss you can’t imagine: young men and suicide
‘articulation is the tongue-tied’s fighting’ .
I believe articulation is healing, a way to atonement and to being able to forgive yourself. The serenity to accept the things you cannot change. Articulation can be confessional, too. You can’t change the past; ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ simply make you spiritually ill. We know this, rationally, consciously, but living by it needs help. Two poets have given me that help. Clare Shaw’s credo “I do not believe in silence” and her unwavering frank gaze at her history of self-harm, and psychological disturbance gave me courage. As did Kim Moore’s decision to use poetry to deal with her experience of domestic abuse. And, finally, one moment in a writing class that Kim was running that somehow unlocked suppressed and unarticulated belief, guilt, knowledge. I remember I wept silently all the time I was writing. It only lasted five minutes, that task. But an insight, an acknowledgement takes only a moment no matter how long the process that leads up to it. This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine says Prospero at the end. I think I understand the release he must have felt in that split second.
O Death, I have loved you,Anne Higgins, Hurricane Coming
but I have not slept with you.
Were you hiding there,
In the shadows on the landing?
Navy blue sky,
tornado slithering toward her
like a shearing train.
The morning after you left I drew
the curtains on the seven-acre field.
Two hares were bowling through the stubble,
wind-blown, skidding like broken wheels.
They danced and sprung apart and danced again
and then were gone, beyond the tidemark
of the tree line.Dick Jones, THE TIES THAT BIND
A few weeks ago I started to write a post about my resolve not to purchase any more fancy journals, because they were becoming a barrier to my writing for various reasons. Then I thought, “Ms. Typist, get real. Nobody wants to hear your inane fancy-journal theories,” and I scrapped the post. I had bought a plain, lined school notebook some time ago that I’ve been scribbling in, and my no-fancy-journal will power has been strong….up until Friday. Friday destroyed my last shred of resolve. I shall explain: Every quarter, I have an all-day, off-site meeting with my colleagues at the other hospitals who do the same job that I do. There’s only four of us throughout the system, so we have to stick together. We take turns hosting these little shindigs, in which we get together and eat lunch and talk about…business things. And sometimes there is shopping for…business purposes. My colleague who set this one up arranged to have us go to a wholesale art and gift outlet in the depths of the industrial district that the owner agreed to open by appointment just for us. I’m not really a big shop-for-pleasure person, and I didn’t need anything, but I thought it would be fun to look at jewelry and art and pretty things.Kristen McHenry, Fancy-Journal Heaven, My Pound of Bacon, 80’s Flashback
What I did not expect were three huge aisles dedicated entirely to—you guessed it–fancy journals. Beautiful, shiny, sleek, artistic journals, some with gold leafing, and all at wholesale prices. At first I thought I was having a near-death experience and had drifted into a custom-designed heaven. Then I was certain it was a trap. This is how they were going to get me. They would lure me into a fancy-journal paradise and then, while I was too entranced by embossed leather to notice my surroundings, they would put the hood over my head and haul me off. I was stunned. As my colleagues roamed the kitchen-supply and handbag areas, I remained in the fancy-journal section, poring over one gorgeously-designed book after another and fighting down the mild panic that arose from having too many choices. As a warning, I texted Mr. Typist and told him that I could not be held responsible for my actions.
I folded the sheet of newspaper into a hat the way my mother did when I was a child. If I made two more folds it would have become a boat, but I stop at the hat, and I place it on my head. Once upon a time, I did this to please my mother, so that she would know that I learned from her. Years later, I wore the hat to make children laugh. Now? My mother is gone and so are the children. In the silence of the house I wear the foolish hat, a hat made of folded newspaper. No one sees, no one laughs. Outside, the sound of a blue jay. It is a lonely sound.James Lee Jobe, prose poem – ‘I folded the sheet of newspaper into a hat’
We were children in the years of Sunday drives, burning fossil fuels to tour the countryside and leave the city’s skyline, obscured in puce-yellow, lead-bearing smog, for tree-lined back roads and a picnic lunch. Sometimes over bridge, sometimes under the Hudson. Each crossing tested our bravery: fear of heights, of darkness. We had a song for the bridge which we sang while watching cables’ span. We were too small to see out the windows down to sailboats and barge traffic. The tunnel had no song. We hunched in the backseat, held hands, squeezed shut our eyes, expecting to drown. On the curved ascent in New Jersey my sister chose the house she wanted to live in—many-dormered, stone, with a round tower, it jutted over Weehawken. Once we’d learned to read, we realized it was the town library, which suited her imagined lifestyle. She would choose that even today, retire to a library and work part-time in a bookshop. She imagines I will join here there, perhaps I might.Ann E. Michael, Prose poem, memoir
The other day, clouds began dripping from the sky. So did golden drops of sunshine and birds in mid-flight. It was like that Dali painting, only more than melting clocks. Condos, markets, and palm trees puddled in the streets. Ditto with the Hollywood sign and Angelyne’s pink Corvette. Drip by drip, drop by drop, I collected up all the slippity slops of my city into nearby buckets. My city was deconstructing quicker than I could reconstruct it. I worked faster; tried putting Echo Park back where Echo Park belonged, Venice where Venice belonged. I worked long into the night, determined to get my city back to the way it looked in my mind.Rich Ferguson, Dali, California
I’m just back from a few days in Spain with my family. I felt bad about flying, even though I haven’t flown since I went to Portugal in 2015. I will try not to fly again for at least a year, maybe longer. I haven’t signed up for the #flightfree2020 pledge but I am thinking about it. Generally I’m thinking more and more about climate change and trying to take steps to make my own small contributions. As Greta Thunberg says “No One is Too Small to Make a Difference.
A turning point, for me, was attending the Ginkgo Prize readings last year at Poetry in Aldeburgh, followed by increased news coverage of our planet’s climate crisis, actions by Greta Thunberg, the Magma‘s Climate Change Issue and Carol Ann Duffy’s selection of poems for our vanishing insect world. Yes, all these small actions have impacted on me.
But apart from the guilt about flying, it was lovely to be with my husband, Andrew, and our two children who are now 20 and 18. We are rarely together any more. Our daughter is going into her final year at university this autumn and our son is starting in September. We will be empty nesters.
I took the latest issue of Under the Radar magazine with me and found it an ideal poolside companion. The magazine has had a makeover and it’s looking splendid.Josephine Corcoran, Mid-September Notes
I also read three wonderful poetry collections this month. The first was Deborah L. Davitt’s The Gates of Never, a beautifully accessible collection of poetry that explores and blends history, mythology, and magic with science and science fiction. These poems morph between being moving, irreverent, and erotic — a great collection of work. (I interviewed Davitt for the New Books in Poetry podcast, which I’ll be able to share soon.)
little ditch by Melissa Eleftherion and The Dragonfly and Other Songs of Mourning by Michelle Scalise are two stunning poetry chapbooks. little ditch looks at the intersections between the body and the natural world in order to examine issues surrounding sexual abuse, rape culture, and internalized misogyny. Dragonfly is a beautiful exploration of the horrors of mourning and childhood abuse.Andrea Blythe, Culture Consumption: August 2019
Further to last week’s post in which I mentioned about intending to record a poem for the Belfast Poetry Jukebox, I did indeed record one of my poems. I found the quietest time to make the recording was at midnight and the quietest place was in my walk-in wardrobe with its door closed. The street I live on is perpetually busy so around midnight is the point at which there can be 5 minutes of silence without a car or van driving past.
Then my parents visited this weekend and I asked them to set my combi boiler to do heat as well as hot water. In doing so I scuppered any chance of making a recording with as-close-to-silent level of background noise as possible. Downstairs the freezer has a perpetual hum. Upstairs the combi boiler constantly hums. There is nowhere I can record where one of those hums does not appear on the recording. Applying a noise reduction filter works to a degree, but tends to deaden the vibrancy of the sound.
We are so small between the stars, so large against the sky,
and lost among the subway crowds I try to catch your eye.
(from Stories of the Street by Leonard Cohen on AZ Lyrics)
So I’m going to try taking my recording out onto the street at midnight! I’ll be away from the humming and, if I don’t read too loudly, I shouldn’t wake the neighbours! Of course, Sod’s law says it’ll be raining so that’d scupper a silent background noise, but maybe the circumstances will come together :)Giles L. Turnbull, Poetry of the street
“Some beetle trilling its midnight utterance.”
Beetle song opens Denise Levertov’s “Continuum,” a poem of late-summer return. Returns can be precarious transitions…maybe you’re like me, having come back home with a certain euphoria, having recalibrated by quieting the melancholy news junkie part of self. I’d been lucky enough to overhear in my own voice too much cynicism and slid off that lid. In doing so, I unleashed a new creative flow.
I recall how each year/returning from voyages, flights/over sundown snowpeaks/cities crouched over darkening lakes/hamlets of wood and smoke, I feel…
Even the feeling part is confusing. Does your whole self come back? Does part of self get shut down amidst the weight of “reality?” Is the conversation with self still audible?
Using a September metaphor, strands of our reality seem to swing like hammacks strung between tall trees. One loose strand is the reality TV show of Donald Trump trying to steer weather according to his whims. Serena Williams as falling hero. There is real suffering in the catastrophe of the Bahamas which demands an open heart.
How can we hold values of openness and maintain the pole of poetic value? It’s a tricky challenge that requires ongoing practice and community involvements. I’d also posit querying and challenging the self — but don’t take my example of insomnia, with long sessions of inter-self conversation.Jill Pearlman, Continuum
See how he keepsTom Montag, SEEING
pointing at things,
See how things
keep pointing back,
It is not
enough to see,
We must also