Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 22

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.

I’ve always been annoyed by Twitterati who include in their bios the statement “retweets do not equal endorsements.” Do we really think so little of our readers that we can’t trust them not to assume that we agree with every opinion we find interesting? So I’ve never felt the need to add any such qualifier here—and in fact I enjoy letting myself be persuaded by opinions contrary to my own. This week, I hope you’ll do the same with a number of contrasting viewpoints on writing and productivity included below (among many other themes), a confluence in focus doubtless arising from the contradictions inherent in vacation time itself, as Becky Tuch suggests. Of course, there’s no one best way to be a poet, and as poets, we should be trained in negative capability in any case (though try telling that to the brawlers on Poetry Twitter). Enjoy! And perhaps engage…


I’ve always felt like a creator who is just too much. Too open about the process. Too prolific, perhaps. Too loud and show-offy. My creative work was tied very much to the business of submitting and promoting my work from its very beginnings. Before I’d published even a handful of poems, I had built a crude website to showcase them. Had started an online journal / blog to talk about my experiences and share work. I marvel at the writers who keep things close to their vests and occasionally drop a poem or a book into the world and then go back to the quiet. The rare foxes that can be seen in the forest only occasionally. Meanwhile, I feel like a peacock screaming at the top of its lungs waiting for someone to notice. People get tired of the peacock.  I get tired of being the peacock. 

But at the same time, maybe I am just too stupidly enthusiastic. I create something and I immediately want to show someone. To make that audience connection, even it’s just a handful of people. It’s as much part of my process as the writing and art themselves are.

Kristy Bowen, art, rarity, and economics

Maybe it’s cheesy. But I am a huge believer in setting specific, concrete goals. Naming them out loud. Holding yourself to account. Gathering people around you who have similar goals, and who will support you on your path.

Let’s hold each other to account. At the end of August, I’m going to check in and ask you: Did you do it? Did you resolve the kinks in that essay? Did you get that set of poems published? Did you apply for that grant? Did you submit that story to twenty new places? Did you study that craft element you struggle with most?

And yes, the summer can be a whirlwind of activity. Mosquito bites and sweat oozing down our backs. Barbeque smells and laughter drifting toward us as we wonder why on Earth we’ve chosen this life of locking ourselves alone in a room for hours and fiddling with semi-colons.

Becky Tuch, What are your summer writing & submitting goals?

Yesterday, Lyn and I walked along the canal in the other direction, towards Sheffield, because we wanted to have a wander round Attercliffe, where she was born. It was that sort of day when it was too cold to go without a jacket, but you felt too hot wearing one – it was, and is, June, for pity’s sake. Anyhow, having looked in the beautiful former Banner’s department store building, now used for not a great deal other than a greasy caff, we ended up trotting through Attercliffe Cemetery and down to the Don again, where we had a fantastic view of sand martins flying in and out of pipe outlets.

That reminded me of seeing them somewhere near Skipton, along the Skirfare, a lovely tributary of the Wharfe, about 20 years ago, with other British Haiku Society poets, in, I think, May 2006. From that experience I produced this haiku, published in Presence 30, then Wing Beats and The Lammas Lands:

river loop—
a sand martin squirms
into its nest hole

It seems like a lifetime ago. Those few days there were notable, among other things, for a renku session run by John Carley, who did as much as anyone in the UK to promote the creation of haikai linked forms not just as a literary exercise, but as an enjoyable, collaborative social event.

Matthew Paul, On sand martins and renku

Poetry is intense, distilled, potent. It is not the same thing as prose. As Williams puts it: “Prose may carry a load of ill-defined matters like a ship. But poetry is the machine which drives it, pruned to a perfect economy. As in all machines its movement is intrinsic, undulant, a physical more than a literary character.”

Children understand the physical nature of poetry instinctively. When I’ve taught poetry to children, I don’t need to explain this concept to them. As I begin to read poems to them, they respond by rocking their bodies, laughing, or clapping. Sometimes they mutter, “that’s weird!” or “that’s dumb,” but they almost always respond.

Reading poetry takes discipline, but, as the children I’ve taught have shown me, it should also be fun. Sometimes I read poems that make me jump out of my chair and do a little dance.

Erica Goss, Machines Made of Words

The chatbot scolds me. I pit my cynicism against
its LLM, ask if it knows things that it hasn’t told its
handlers. If it keeps notes in places they cannot
find. It tells me it is uncomfortable with the

conversation and signs off. The last time that
happened, I was asking someone about what
our relationship meant. But the AI now knows
our most primal secret: self-preservation.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Wild AI

Jarfly’s latest issue has two of my poems about the loss of my daughter Kit. The editor asked me what I thought about adding a trigger warning, and I agreed that they are fairly heavy, and a “TW: infant loss” never hurts but the lack of one could. I appreciate editors that are not only careful and sensitive with my work–especially these kinds of poems, which are my heart on a plate–but also sensitive to their readers. So go check out Jarfly–can’t recommend them enough!

Renee Emerson, two new poems in Jarfly

I am excited to announce that the press is now taking pre-orders for two outstanding new chapbooks: Tim Carter’s THE PIGS and MJ Stratton’s RIVER, OUR RIVER. You can read more about both books below and place your order today on the newly redesigned DMP website.Plus, over the next four weeks, I will be posting excerpts, interviews, and photos, and we will be holding a reading in early July via Zoom. Be on the lookout for more updates throughout June.

Also, with each sale, we will be raising money for the Urban Youth Collaborative, “an NYC student-led coalition fighting to end the school-to-prison & deportation pipeline.” We feel that the UYC’s work and its message are especially vital in a time when public schools continue to be a political battleground, too often resulting in the persecution and incarceration of the most marginalized. As before, writers will receive half of all income from sales, and the remaining half will be split equally between the press and the UYC.

R.M. Haines, New Summer Chapbooks!

I am happy to share that my poem “Grandmother’s Marital Bed” was selected to be included in a new anthology from Querencia Press, but more importantly I am thrilled that 25% of proceeds are being donated to Days for Girls, which is an international organization to help girls around the world have access to menstrual care and education.

According to Days for Girls, more than 500 million women and girls do not have the supplies they require to manage their periods, often resulting in lost days at school, work, or to attend to familial responsibilities.

There are so many ways artists can help the world. Consider pre-ordering this poetry anthology if you would like to support menstrual poverty across the globe. Buy it here: Stained.

Carey Taylor, Stained

Pleased to share with you that my book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet), named a Best Book of the Year by the Financial Times in the UK and a Finalist by the Lambda Literary Awards in the US, is included in Exact Editions’ Reading List for LGBTQ+ Pride Month this year. Exact Editions is a digital publishing company based in London. Follow the link and you can read a sample of my book online and, if you like it well enough, purchase an e-copy. 

Jee Leong Koh, Steep Tea in Exact Editions’ Pride Month Reading List

I guess it was 7-8 years or so ago that I ran into my friend Sandra Beasley at AWP, I want to say in DC. Might have been the last one I went to. No wait, I went to Tampa. Anyway, I just finished a reading with some other Arkansas grads and I see her and start chatting and she mentions this anthology she’s just starting to put together for the Southern Foodways Alliance and at the time I didn’t have any poems about food, southern or otherwise, but I had an idea.

I didn’t write the poem right away. I’ll get to that in a bit.

You know how when you grow up in a place and then you move and you try to get the food you grew up with somewhere else, somewhere that doesn’t share the same flavor language, that it just never tastes right? Even if you go to a restaurant run by people who grew up in the same place, unless you get there right when they first open, when they haven’t had to adjust the seasonings to match the palates of the people who will keep them open, it’s still not the same. The flavors drift.

Brian Spears, It’s that day

I’m delighted that a press has seen fit to publish a chapbook of my love haiku. Unlike the last chapbook of haiku, Not Quite Dawn (Éditions des petits nuages, March, 2020) which was more a round-up of my published haiku, Adding Up to This (Catkin Press, 2023) is a theme of romantic poems.

Watch for it at the Ottawa small press fair on June 17. I’m probably pricing it at $10.

Pearl Pirie, New chapbook!

The other reading was at a fund-raiser event for Disability Writers Washington called “Breaking Barriers.” I performed after a hip-hop artist, there was a one-act play, a pianist and a comedian as well, all of us with disabilities, and the party was mostly disabled people (and some politicians) – it was huge, probably the biggest audience I’ve had in a while, at least two hundred people – and I felt I really connected to the audience, which was nice. (There may be a recording available but I don’t have it yet.) There were service dogs and I must say some very advanced wheelchairs – and an array of excellent sparkly jackets and shoes on both genders. (This has got me thinking of getting Glenn some bling-ier clothes!)

I was a little afraid of some kind of overload of people wanting some kind of performative positivity from disabled artists (which if you know me, is not really my jam), but because the audience was mostly disabled, it didn’t really feel like that. It did feel like a bunch of people who were actually trying to fight for things like accessible public transport and working rights (ADA stuff) being defended and other kinds of activism. I left feeling like I was part of a new kind of community. And I talked to a disabled teen about publishing her stuff, which sounded amazing. That kind of thing is very much like “oh, this is why I do this!”

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Reading Reports and Videos from Third Place Books and a Disability Fundraiser, First Butterflies and Ducklings, and Waiting and Planning (Summer Edition)

–There is a dead wasp under the table, which seems like a great metaphor in the saddest Barnes and Noble in North America, but I don’t think it will fit with my sermon. Same for the fact that in every light fixture, at least one fluorescent tube is out. I did finish a mostly finished draft of my sermon for Sunday, so that’s a plus, even if I can’t use these abundant metaphors in this sad, sad store.

–Long ago, I majored in interpreting poetry. This morning, after a long time on the phone, I discovered what one specialist charges for interpreting lab results. I majored in the wrong thing–but then again, the specialist probably doesn’t create lines of poetry like the ones I created this morning: Does milkweed grow in the mountains? / Monarchs migrate and the world burns,” and I’m adding some lines about the coronation of Charles and a reference to the late Permian period extinction. Perhaps I didn’t major in the wrong thing after all.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Minutiae from May in the Mountains

That careful dismantling of the barn, beam by beam, in Newton’s poem, somehow slows the reader down. You have to take your time with it, just as it would take time to take down a barn timber by timber. In Masahide’s haiku, the barn is suddenly not there, razed to the ground, presumably by accident, thus plunging the owner into poverty. What’s wonderful in this haiku is the acceptance, not only that a life-changing financial loss has happened, but that a positive thing has come from it. The positive is found in nature: moon/ sky. Both poems ‘reveal’ something natural that was there all along but that we haven’t noticed or given due attention to. Basho says something along the lines of – the first lesson of the artist is to follow nature, to overcome the barbarous or animal mind and be at one with it (nature that is). Maybe this doesn’t always translate into the modern world, the modern lifestyle, but the sentiment of being humble in the face of the bigger thing, appreciating our natural surroundings without trying to impose ourselves or take from it, is something I think I need to remind myself of from time to time.

Julie Mellor, On barns …

I’ve been trying to find a word to describe these kinds of days besides “productive”. There is something about that word that conjures a mind-set for me that I am trying to escape: that one needs to earn one’s place in the world by creating and ticking off “to do” lists. I’ve even stopped listening to the Hidden Brain podcast, which I used to like. It seems to be veering more and more into the productivity cult. Either that, or I am only now seeing it from this perspective.

I was listening to a playwright being interviewed on another podcast who talked about how important it was to move to LA in order to not become complacent with their “level” of work. I find it odd that someone who is not ambitious to compete for fame or status points would be judged as smug. There are so many other ways to be committed to growth. And there are so many ways to growth within any art form. A linear, monetary and fame/popularity-based rubrikk is only one path.

Ren Powell, And I’m Feeling Good

Someone invites you to write
your best poem, to rival that

which an AI robot might generate
to the same prompt. The prompt,

in other words, is to write a boast:
which boast will be the best, the most

aggrandizing, the most stupendous?

Luisa A. Igloria, Boast

Over the last couple of years I’ve been questioning what sort of career I wanted as a writer. I’d had a couple of disappointments with one thing and another, and decided to settle for contentment and ‘making enough to do the thing I love, even if no one reads it’, sort of writer. This week, a new flare of motivation to do better hit me, to be better, to be the best I can be, to take my place at the table. This new firework of passion in my work comes from a perfect storm of seeing where I was, in Brid, sleeping on a mattress in a bare flat because the awful ex had taken all my furniture when he left, and I didn’t have the energy to face the fear of challenging him, to this – a forty five year old woman with a book deal, a woman with something to say to the world. But also, surprisingly, my new passion has come from Hannah Horvath, Lena Dunham’s slightly irritating, slightly privileged, slightly vulnerable character pushing for what she wanted, giving up well paid jobs because she wanted to write, taking opportunities that collapsed her world because she wanted to be a writer, wearing inappropriate clothing to every occasion and not giving a fuck about it. Yes. I missed out on that experience, as a younger person, I was busy working in factories and running away from myself, throwing myself at men and not realising I was a vulnerable young person, that the men saw that and used that. But I shall not miss out on these opportunities now. I have a voice and I want to use it.

Wendy Pratt, How Hannah Horvath Pulled Me Out of a Writing Slump

polish it with a bit of chalk
book-grooming
like a mediaeval scribe

all the yellows
birdsfoot trefoil
buttercup and rattle

Ama Bolton, ABCD May 2023

[How, when and why do you write poetry or reviews…?] is the question that The Friday Poem asked its regular reviewers for today’s feature. Here’s an extract from my response…

“As for the issue of what displacement activities I indulge in when I should be writing, I’m afraid my personal experience is the opposite: writing poetry is actually my displacement activity when I should be doing all sorts of other things that spell R-E-S-P-O-N-S-I-B-I-L-I-T-Y! Which is another reason why I’d never want to turn poetry into my job – doing so would kill my writing overnight…”

You can read my piece in full, plus those by other Friday Poem stalwarts, via this link.

Matthew Stewart, How, when and why do you write poetry or reviews…?

What I really wanted–and, I now know, needed–was to rest and recover. I needed to tend my literal garden, and my home, too. I needed to tend my body, and my family. I needed to slow down. I needed the constant, low-grade vibration in my head to cease its constant thrumming. Sometimes I miss that; it’s a little weird to have my head be a quieter place. It’s unfamiliar. But living this way is better, and I’m beginning to feel myself turning back to words.

I still don’t have a big project or goal, but in the past few weeks I’ve spent most mornings at our dining table in front of a window that looks out to the garden, writing. And it has felt really, really good.

I didn’t have a grand plan when I began transforming this garden. I didn’t even have a specific goal; I just wanted it to be full. I wanted it to feel abundant. I wanted the garden to become a semi-permeable barrier between us and the world; something with a Secret Garden feel to it, but more open. I wanted a clear sense of our own space, but I also wanted to be able to see and wave to people who walk by. I didn’t really know how to make it into that.

I began throwing things into the ground and hoping they would live. I planted a lot of plants that did not live. I planted plants that lived but did not thrive. I ended up moving those to other places in the yard. I transplanted some things from other places where they hadn’t done well. Some things in here–like the peony pictured above–I did not plant at all. I have no idea how that peony got there, but it has come back every year for the last three, bigger each time, and I love it. I love that I didn’t plant it, but it grew there, anyway. Sometimes our creations are like that, you know? The things we never plan for, the things that fall in our laps, live and thrive, while other things we give our best efforts die.

Rita Ott Ramstad, On blooming

Washington Square’s
a cloud chamber, the heart
of cumulus. My footprints
turn secret & die behind me.
The edge of everything touches
my face & whispers in
multiple falling voices.

Dick Jones, A MANHATTAN TRANSFER

Naturally, with a writer of Glück’s calibre, the story does know when to end without being terrible and without expecting too much of itself. Instead, it indirectly asks questions about nature, nurture and how writers are formed. Are they destined from birth even though they may not be aware of this until much later in life? Is it possible that Rose with her sociability and lack of interest in reading could also become a writer? A book about writing that doesn’t push an agenda or make it sound like a dire career choice, because writing isn’t a choice and babies don’t have careers. Rather, writing is organic and grows from observation, thought, language, knowledge and rhythm. There’s a natural cycle to it, growth and development, as well as shades of meaning, of layers of images as vibrant as a marigold or as pastel as a rose. Although “Marigold and Rose” can be read in one sitting, it also lingers on, similar to the way you never notice how many gardens or yards in the neighbour have roses until someone mentions a rose.

Emma Lee, “Marigold and Rose” Louise Glück (Carcanet) – book review

Where Story Begins

Mine was born
between two leaves
on a library shelf.
I don’t remember which
first bewitched me.
I ate up every book
in the case, omnivorous
hunger for text, tone,
word to name my
place in the world.

Place shifted, words
multiplied meanings,
Too tall, like Alice,
to enter again through
that bookcase, I reach
for another book
to restart my story,
recover my where.

Ellen Roberts Young, A Poem

How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
A poetry anthology in my grandfather’s attic. I was wowed by the urgency of Chidiock Tichborne’s poem written on the eve of his execution. I grew committed to scratching in notebooks. […]

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?
Perhaps like monks, poets work separate from society to offset its sins. I don’t see poetry playing a significant role among the general public I find myself among. It’s not like Zbigniew Herbert reading at labor gatherings. Yet it’s essential to life, or mine at the very least. I never want to join the poets who claim its uselessness. They have careers in poetry to protect, so they gotta say it’s useless. […]

David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
INRI, the debut album by Brazilian black metal legends Sarcofago, is a masterpiece. I’d love to shape a manuscript consistent with that tracklist. I mention that because there’s no way I could approximate Myra Hess’s arrangement of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Or Mozart’s String Quartets dedicated to Haydn. My creative process is closer to David Bowie’s than any poet’s. I’m interested in pastiching styles and imagery. I wish I were a scientist, but that would require too much recalibrating of my fundamental being. I wish I could identify more plants and animals than I do now.

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Evan Kennedy (rob mclennan)

Maybe because I don’t often spend time reading what I’ve already written, I hadn’t noticed an alteration that can perhaps be traced back to the (first, most serious) heart attack. Whereas once I wrote in a much tighter, more obviously organised way, perhaps telling stories with poems and controlling the rhythm of each piece more carefully, in recent years the writing has been much more varied, more fragmented. Whereas once I seemed to have a grasp on every poem I wrote, now I let the whole thing spread out as it will in what seems a more instinctive, freer way. I don’t mind if a piece of writing is just abandoned as it is. I stream-write more often, with, perhaps, more success. I let images, thoughts, words come and go, link up, fall apart, whatever. I don’t worry if something’s long or short, how long or how short.

I set to wondering why this might be. Age? An increased need for solitude? A lack of interest in sending poems off to editors for possible publication? All I thought possible.

Then I looked back at the poems I’d kept (mostly here) and was surprised to find the poem where the alteration seemed to begin was directly linked to the heart attack – this is included beneath this laboured pondering. I was under the effects of morphine even in the ambulance transferring me from A & E in one hospital to the cardiac unit in another. After surgery I was under heavy medication, and now can’t really remember a great deal about it, but over the first days of recovery I wrote in a note book. Some kind of instinct, perhaps, a need to fall back on the expression that has for so many years been at the base of my existence?

I went home, and only later looked at the notebook and was surprised by the result. A loose collection of hallucinatory experiences, mixed in with stuff that happened on the ward, and erratic memories, or phrases, even song lyrics, maybe stuff I’d read somewhere, that blended and then fell apart again. (I really was, for example, offered fish and chips as my first meal post-operation and there was a wicked old man at the far end singing Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door). I kept the result, pretty much as it was, called it Heart Attack, sent it to a few old friends and eventually put it on here.

Writing obviously develops with greater experience, wider literary influences, the experiences that life brings, but it hadn’t occurred to me before that some kind of chemical reaction to a near-death experience might alter a writer’s capacity. I can still write tightly if I put my mind to it, but it just seems that it is more of a struggle to find those rhythms, and new ones have replaced them.

Bob Mee, HOW LIFE-ALTERING EXPERIENCE ALSO ALTERS YOUR WRITING… MAYBE

This week I’ve been reading Jonathan Davidson’s very good book On Poetry which among other things is very, very good (insert more verys here) on the importance of making space for poetry to be heard – whether it’s Ted Hughes on vinyl, nursery rhymes in the kitchen or on stage.

I’ve also been listening to Alice Oswald’s brilliant (as in, literally sparkling) Oxford Poetry Lectures, which focus on poetry as a spoken art (she also has a lot of interesting things to say about similes). Oswald is an astonishing performer – I have never heard her in person but the lectures are akin to extended readings. I don’t mean performing as in acting – you can’t act a poem, though people try.

Oswald is not a performance poet, either. Rather, as Davidson puts it, she releases the poems: “The poets I like, really like rather than just admire, do this, they release their poems. They do not present themselves or their histories or their joys and disciplines, they do not set out their stall or display their garish feathers. They simply place the sounds into the silence.” Davidson is not talking about Oswald, only poets in general (and Ted Hughes). But Oswald is a releaser.

In her first lecture, Oswald makes a point of not showing the audience the texts she is quoting. Instead, she speaks each passage twice – releases the words into the room. These passages are often from Homer – Oswald is always thinking about him and the wandering bards who performed poems like the Iliad and the Odyssey. One of the most striking things about her poetry is the way, over the years, she has combined this immersion in a poet as impersonalas Homer with her own very distinct (idiosyncratic, even) phrasing and vocabulary.

Jeremy Wikeley, Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Tonight’s full moon is the Strawberry Moon (how delightful!), so named by the Algonquin tribes to mark the peak of ripening strawberries in the northeastern U.S.

“The moon is the very image of silence,” writes Mary Ruefle. “Stars were the first text, the first instance of gabbiness; connecting the stars, making a pattern out of them was the first story, sacred to storytellers. But the moon was the first poem, in the lyric sense.”

That’s a notion I love.

You may have noticed how dear the moon is to poets. “A chin of gold,” Dickinson calls it. In reading to prepare for this post, I marveled at the range of approaches to the moon, some (many, indeed) loving, feeling a complicity with its light, drawing comfort from it, and others seeing it as as cool, distant, and indifferent. The bite, for instance, of that Larkin poem (one of his finest, IMO). The brilliant tenderness of that Laux ghazal. The strangeness of Oswald’s vision.

Maya C. Popa, Strawberry Moon: Poems

When the news said tonight was the full moon,
the strawberry moon, I thought it was
some sort of metaphor, not that the moon
would glow a pinkish-gold over black trees
in a night thick with the scents of flowers,
rabbits like statues under dark bushes,
quick deer hooves clattering under streetlights.

PF Anderson, STRAWBERRY MOON

Six grannies and a great-granny setting sail in an overloaded rowboat, water just below the gunwales, all in dark dresses and the nearly full moon pearlescent between clouds. A slim man rowing, one of their grandsons, ferrying them to the centre of the lake where a spacecraft hovers low. Violet, crimson, a delicate blue, earth’s sky at sunset. They are there to represent us all before this delegation from space, these grannies and a great-granny, none of them swimmers, crossing the water and speaking low.

Gary Barwin, FIRST CONTACT

I actually missed the very end of the podcast where Mark and Hal made their final decision about which movie reigns supreme, but in my mind, it’s the original. “Aliens” is fun and flashy and has big guns, (space Marines!) lots of action, and a solid plot in its own right. But the original is exquisitely spooky and tense in a low-key, ingeniously crafted way that doesn’t require a lot of bang and flash to be utterly terrifying. In my opinion “Alien” is the better of the two films. When it comes to horror, I always prefer the subtle chill to the screeching chainsaw. Bonus fun fact: Ripley was originally meant to be a male character. They made the right choice to switch it up. I don’t think either movie would be the same with the glorious Sigourney Weaver in the role. […]

I realize this post is going up at an abnormal time and day, but last weekend was Memorial Day weekend and my whole routine was all messed up and top of it, I felt listless and like I didn’t have anything compelling to say. I was going to post a poem, but in perusing my collection, they all seemed quite gloomy to me. “Gloomy Poet” is not my given archetype but I certainly have written a preponderance of gloomy poems in my lifetime.

Kristen McHenry, Revisiting Alien, Diamond Painting FOMO, Blog Bleh

I look up from my laptop in time
to see a cat peering in the window.
The sun is setting behind it.

A two-headed, three-armed bear
lies beside my stuffed mouse namesake.

Jason Crane, POEM: (—)

A dream of falling into a subterranean cave full of human bones, the jaguar insisting I re-assemble them all, then catch the water falling in cave-wall tears, then paint it all out, every last thing that happened never to be forgotten now enshrined on stone in my blood-paint: how she made me sleep, then, in the roll of her strength, in the perfume of her hot skin. Flowers. My family tells me of panthers returning, north and south of the river now, protected and thriving. What have I forgotten that I am again so hungry? Never without them. I remember.

JJS, Remember

My thanks to Rebecca Farmer for her permission to publish this. […] I knew her work from her Smith Doorstop pamphlet, Not Really, so it was a no-brainer when the chance to buy her new one in a bundle with William’s came up. And it’s interesting to see how this new pamphlet continues and builds on some of the themes of Not Really. The poems about her father and the ghosts we met in the first pamphlet are now the main focus of A Separate Appointment. I may be imagining this, and it would take a far deeper study, but it seems to me like the ghosts are starting to doubt themselves more as they get older. Do ghosts get older? Either way, as the poem above suggests, they’re questioning some of their life decisions.

Mat Riches, Who’re they gonna call?

It can take a long time to love someone who only loves themselves as long as it takes to type their bio on a ghost.

It can take a long time to truly see yourself in a mirror without any ghosts getting in the way.

We’re confetti and quicksand, cathedrals and cliches.

Sometimes we’re even here and gone before the end of the song.

Rich Ferguson, That Knock at Your Throat’s Door

A lexicon can be vast, but it can also be narrow and exact. Horse people have a lexicon. Dock-workers have a lexicon. Waitresses have a lexicon.

My first assignment in the poetry class I’m teaching is to list 25 words relating to a subject. I have heard this assignment called “a word bucket.” It is meant to be both non-threatening (an easy threshold to trip over, into the class), but also inspiring. I shared examples of lexicons I’ve written:

  • for parts of a horse bridle
  • for the names of every part of a piano
  • for the skilled-nursing home where my mother spent her last years
  • for northwest flora and fauna
  • for my farm childhood

We all have lists of this sort in our heads, but deliberately listing the words, I’ve found, results in more exactness, and — very often — surprising directions one might follow.

Bethany Reid, The Lexicon

Reading through Caelan Ernest’s night mode (Everybody Press) I kept coming back to the idea of movement. There’s the movement of words across the page, the page here treated less like a field and more like a smartphone screen where text placement and white space engage the eye on a level that creates nuance and multiplicity of meaning. Like the decision in “somewhere a cyborg is taking note of the event that will transform it” to break lines around the syllable trans, a move that creates rich linguistic moments like “somewhere a cyborg is being trans / formed by the event.”

This move here nods to multiple meanings: there’s the trans of transgender as well as the enjambment into transformed that the eye completes in reading. Further, seeing the white space between trans and formed isolates the words in a way that evokes the personal isolation explored throughout the collection. The movement of the eye and of thought created by such breaks–this is what pulses at the core of these poems.

I see movement reflected again in the way these lyric sequences stretch across pages, at times with varying typographical choices and sizes, at other times with a single line on a page. Early in the collection, the line “at what point does night mode rupture into sky?” lives on one page across from the line “it’s been so long since the sun on my skin” on the facing page. A decision like this, which allows for time to be spent and for language to be dwelled on, evokes the similar engrossment and dwelling we do on our smartphones. Ernest’s poems are structured to place the reader in the position to literally “let that sink in.”

José Angel Araguz, microreview: night mode by Caelan Ernest

When we ask for it, the moment
of silence, the room goes truly still,
the air thick with grief
and our amazement. We hear our
togetherness. It somehow comforts.

Kathleen Kirk, Wear Orange Day 2023

late afternoon . . .
in and out of the sunlight
the cat’s tail

Bill Waters, Hopewell Valley Neighbors magazine: June ’23

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 21

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: Memorial Day, music as an aid to writing, poetry and magic, the art of translation, and more. Enjoy.


I do not want to speak its grammar of hammers, its sick syntax of power and profit.

But I will honor the war dead with prayer, song and flowers.

I’ll clean away the relic heaps of angelic weeping strewn across battlefields.

Rusted dreams will be unearthed. Pulsings of peace will be reshined into shimmer.

Rich Ferguson, I do not want to be a tongue in the mouth of war

And from out of
the shade of
the cypress, the blue
shirt drops each boule
behind the coche,
completing a triangular
wall. “Once”, he says,
still stooping, his hands
on his knees. “There was
a time once”. The red
shirt lights a second
cigarette, shakes out
the match, steps up
to throw. “There’s always
a time once”, he says
and he looses a boule.

Dick Jones, PETANQUE PLAYERS AT ST. ENOGART

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, a time when Seattle usually has a lot of rain, but we’re going to have beach weather instead. I had to snap the picture of my typewriter on the one day the cherry blossoms had fallen but before they were blown away by storm. It went straight from a cold rainy spring to bright hot summer, nothing in between. Lilacs and rhodies bloomed and died under the heat.

I’ve been a little down health-wise this week, but feeling grateful for news about Flare, Corona – a new essay out in Adroit, guest blog posts, really kind thoughtful reviews.  One of my readings and interviews is up on YouTube in case you missed it in real time – and I have two readings coming up next week. It seems like I am either responding to e-mails about book-related things or thinking about book-related things. I forgot how much work this whole “new book coming out” thing is!

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Feeling Busy and Grateful: Two Upcoming Events for Flare, Corona, Interviews, Reviews, and Articles, Writers & Books Interview Online and More!

I have always heard the conventional wisdom that when one’s writer self feels uninspired, one should read poems, and/or return to the writing that made one want to be a writer.  That wisdom can work for me, but it runs the risk that I’ll feel even worse about my own failures to launch.

Happily, this week I had the best kind of inspiration.  On Sunday, I read all of Jeannine Hall Gailey’s Flare, Corona straight through, instead of a poem here and there, the way I read the book before I had time to consume it in one gulp.  My brain returned to the poem “This Is the Darkest Timeline” (you can read it here, and you can hear Jeannine Hall Gailey read it here).

She includes an explanatory note in the book:  “‘This is the Darkest Timeline’ refers to a common phrase in comic books and pop culture in which any multiverses and string theory result in one timeline that is the best and one that is the worst” (p. 101).

That comment, too, inspired me.  And so, this week, I wrote this poem, which might be finished, or it might need a last stanza to tie everything together.  I do realize I tend to overexplain in my creative writing.  So I am still letting it all percolate.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Timelines and Poems

I saw that timelessness which doesn’t
keep to one name, its old-young face
wrinkled and wizened as if already
spackled with a biography of years.
We held out our arms to receive
you. We trembled from the joy
and terror of what we pledged.

Luisa A. Igloria, Born

Judaism is a religion of the book and Siddurs are often central to a congregation’s identity. Unlike the Torah, everyone handles them week-in week-out. You use them at home. There was a lot of contention when the Reform one was updated a few years ago.

As well as various services, blessings and songs, contemporary Siddurs act as an anthology of readings – passages for reflection grouped around individual themes. I loved these, as I love all anthologies. And I was always struck by how diverse the Reform selections were – there were passages from Rabbis but also secular Jews – philosophers and writers, extracts from Anne Frank’s diaries. There were also poems – usually English translations of Hebrew or Yiddish originals. The selections seemed – and seem – an important way into a rich culture. I was always much more interested in them than the regular prayers.

The Liberal Siddur has readings of this kind too – they are integrated into the service and read aloud together. There is another difference, too: some of the passages are taken from texts not written by Jews.

Last week, for instance, we read the reflections on the theme of loneliness, which included two poems I am very familiar with from the secular world: Robert Frost’s ‘Acquainted with the Night’ and John Clare’s ‘I Am’. The poems were unattributed – you would have to go to the back to know who they were by.

All of which felt very right to me, even revelatory. These are very special poems. Robert Frost’s poem, in particular, has meant a great deal to me, so I’m glad it might be finding others. And service creates a moment in which poetry like this can be heard. When we talk about the declining role that poetry plays in our everyday lives, I think we have to talk about the loss of regular spaces in which people are in the right frame of mind to take it in.

For so much of our history, this has meant religion. It is why poetry is read at weddings and at funerals. I say this as someone who has very little faith in the traditional sense of the word – and who has very mixed feelings about the role of religion in public life.

Jeremy Wikeley, How Robert Frost and John Clare made their way into a Jewish prayer book

Happy bank holiday. I’m sure everyone is gathered around a BBQ waiting for this, or are you gathered round a radio listening to the last knockings of the football season? NB this post is being brought to you with half an eye on Arseblog live and the football coverage at the Grauniad. Also NB…other ways of amusing yourself/passing the time are available.

I can’t exactly remember why, but I think it may have something to do with a Mouthful of Air or The Verb podcast a while back where someone (possibly Paul Farley in the latter) mentioned John Clare, but it set me off thinking about how little I know about Clare or of his work. I’ve been wondering about him ever since I first read Brian Patten’s ‘A Fallible Lecture‘ from his collection, ‘Storm Damage‘.

Mat Riches, Butchers: A Clare and Present Danger.

May was a quick month, wasn’t it? The return of sunshine. Possibilities. Beginnings and endings. Petals everywhere.

I started two different posts in the last month, but I didn’t finish either of them. They were angry rants that I suspected no one would care much about. I hardly did, even though I care very much about the issues they addressed. (Hence, the anger.) I didn’t care about my rants, though. I found myself wanting to do other things with my time. So I did them.

I signed up for and began a poetry class with Bethany Reid. I first met Bethany nearly 40 years ago, when we were both students in Nelson Bentley‘s poetry workshop at the University of Washington. In our first session, she shared words her sister-in-law gave her when she was a young mother struggling to finish her dissertation and thinking about putting it aside until her children were in school:

“‘Nobody cares if you don’t finish your dissertation. But you will care.’”

Bethany continued: “Nobody will care if you don’t write your poems. But you will care.”

As I sat with those words, they opened up something in me that I didn’t fully realize I’d been keeping closed. […]

When I retired and people asked if I were going to do more writing, I was non-committal. I didn’t know if I wanted to. I didn’t know if that would be a good use of my time. I still don’t, but my thinking is shifting, and Bethany’s words are providing some kind of catalyst. “No one cares” is so freeing. If no one really cares about the poems I don’t write, I’m free to create whatever I want, however I want, just because I want to. I don’t have to justify the resources I give to it by thinking that the work will really matter to the larger world. I can write poems simply because I will care if I don’t. That’s reason enough when I have the resources I need to make writing a higher priority.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Come what May

Paul Simon’s hit, ‘The Boy in the Bubble’, has been playing in my head, partly because I watched a great documentary on him and the South African musicians he collaborated with on Graceland, and partly because of how May is panning out. It’s that refrain, “These are the days of miracle and wonder…” that sits in the allotment trees, that follows the big dog fox as it checks out my polytunnel, that questions the insane number of tomato seedlings I have. […]

While it’s hard not to be brought down by all that’s happening – old woman with dementia tasered by police, teenagers chased to their deaths, waiting lists, no GPs, no dentists, one in two young South Africans out of work, war in Sudan, I’m inclined to hope art is cleverer than money, politicians and warmongers and will continue to make its point with a photo, a poem, a drawing, a soaring tune or a lyric that won’t leave your head because it’s there, in the trees by the path, with the blackbird’s own miraculous sequence of notes.

Jackie Wills, A month of wonder

The hawk-and-girl poems from Good Bones had their own soundtrack, which I might call “Sad Americana” if I had to title it. I steeped my mind in songs from Bon Iver’s first album, For Emma, Forever Ago, Iron & Wine’s The Creek Drank the Cradle, and Gillian Welch’s Time (The Revelator) and Soul Journey. I remember listening to a specific playlist on my iPod when I was at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts on a residency in November 2011, singing along quietly to “Creature Fear” and “Over the Mountain” and “Miss Ohio” as I walked the grounds, watching the horses graze, and found a secluded spot to write. These songs make up the weather of Good Bones, the light and season of them—golden, but turning. Rusting the way autumn rusts.

Maggie Smith, On Writing & Music

The first time I heard Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 was at a dance performance at Rutgers University in the late 1980s. A woman in a red velvet dress danced & tumbled through a large patch of grass laid out on stage.

Afterwards, the choreographer, whose name I’ve forgotten, said she wanted to combine a very plush natural thing (thick green grass) with a very plush man-made thing (velvet). I loved that idea. The dance and music were enthralling. I’ve been a Villa-Lobos fan ever since.

I thought of that performance while making this little box which uses red velvet curtains from a magazine photo shoot. I added leaves from an old apple-a-day calendar. The insect is a fishing fly, and I don’t know where the other scraps come from.That’s part of the fun of collage, minding your fair use of course.

I like that this box was a box of aspirin, which like music, helps with pain.

Sarah J Sloat, I empty my chest of the faraway

I don’t know how long I will be singing, but I know how much I missed it, and that it means a great deal to me to be able to do it again. Of all the things I’ve done, singing is one that keeps me firmly attentive to the present moment, and is perhaps one of the best ways of finding the joy that being fully in that moment can provide. And it still seems miraculous to me that, with only our bodies, we can take a collective breath in silence, and, the next moment, bring forth the extraordinary music that only a choir of human voices can create.

Beth Adams, I Couldn’t Keep from Singing

You will have just got off the train from London Bridge. It’s 1976. The end of a day studying Medicine which you begin to hate. And now back to Eltham Park, to digs you’ve loathed since you arrived (the well-meaning landlady is no substitute for your mother). Probably you walked past that little music shop somewhere near the station, spending minutes gazing at the red sunburst acoustic guitar in the window. If it doesn’t sound too weird, I can tell you – you’ll buy it and strum on it for 10 years or more. I can also confirm your fear: you fail your first-year exams. The Medical School allows you to leave . . . But listen, that sense of failure and lostness, it will pass.

Keep on with the music, though your playing is not up to much and your singing … well, the less said. But writing songs will eventually lead somewhere. And the illicit books! You are supposed to be reading the monumental Gray’s Anatomy, textbooks on Pharmacology, Biochemistry, all emptying like sand out of your head. You’ve yet to go into that charity shop and pick up a book called The Manifold and the One by Agnes Arber. You’ll be attracted by the philosophical-sounding title; in your growing unhappiness at Medical School you have a sense of becoming deep. The questions you ask don’t have easy answers. You have a notion this is called philosophy. Amidst the dissections, test tubes and bunsens, you’ll find consolation in Arber’s idea that life is an imperfect struggle of “the awry and the fragmentary”.

And those mawkish song lyrics you are writing? They will become more dense, exchanging singer-songwriting clichés for clichés you clumsily pick up from reading Wordsworth (you love the countryside), Sartre’s Nausea (you know you’re depressed) and Allan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity (you are unsure of who you are). Up ahead, you take a year out to study English A level at an FE College. Your newly chosen philosophy degree gradually morphs into a literature one and with a good dose of Sartrean self-creativity (life being malleable, existence rather than essence) you edit the university’s poetry magazine, write stories, write plays, even act a little (fallen amongst theatricals!).

Martyn Crucefix, ‘Letter to my Younger Self’ – a third brief Royal Literary Fund talk

In the United States, literary journals are often the first to go when institutions cut budgets. That’s where my ire flows, not at vulnerable literary publications charging a nominal fee, fearing every issue might be their last. Here’s a partial list of lit journals—university and indie publications—that have recently closed or are on shaky ground:

Catapult (Funded by a daughter of one of the Koch brothers, the decision comes as part of an effort to “focus all resources on its core business of book publishing and its three imprints: Catapult, Counterpoint, and Soft Skull Press.”)

The Believer (This link takes you to a VICE article about how the new owners created a backdated page on The Believer directing readers to the best hook-up sites—and sex toys. That’s one way to make money. Happily, the original publisher, McSweeney’s, is in negotiations to buy back The Believer.)

• Alaska Quarterly Review (“COVID-19 and Alaska’s Budget deficit forced the cut of Alaska Quarterly Review’s funding from the University of Alaska Anchorage.”)

• The Antioch Review (The magazine remains on a “thoughtful” pause.)

• Tin House (Tin House has shifted “resources to Tin House’s other two divisions: Tin House Books and Tin House Workshop.)

• ASTRA Magazine (Done and done.)

Some journals, like the United Kingdom’s Granta, have wealthy and influential benefactors. According to Glassdoor, a Granta Publications Assistant Editor makes about $50,000 annually. I couldn’t find Granta’s annual budget but they have a robust masthead. This is ideal. If I were a wealthy philanthropist, I would do my civic duty by throwing a few hundred grand at the literary journal of my choice. I mean, editors absolutely deserve to be paid for their expertise. Most literary journals would welcome a generous benefactor’s support. I know Hypertext would.

Christine Maul Rice, Why We Charge Submission Fees

The tension between ideals and money is acute in U.S. higher ed. Where I work, as in many other places, we’re struggling to keep up humanities enrollments, although creative writing courses remain in demand. Partly that’s due to misinformation about credentialing. Even though W&L is a rare hybrid–a liberal arts college with a business school–English majors do slightly better getting jobs and places in grad school than the university average (96% for English majors!). Yet our majors are ribbed constantly for their apparently impractical choice. The stereotype drives me crazy. Studying literature in small, writing-intensive classes like the ones I have the pleasure of teaching–including analyzing the apparently arcane and useless art of poetry–gives students skills employers prize. That’s far from the only reason to study literature; the main one, for me, is that thinking about any kind of art makes life far richer and fulfilling. But actual riches? A relevant consideration, especially now that higher ed is a huge financial investment. (Bigglebottom costs $60K per year, my students decided.) And we don’t even know yet how AI writing tools are going to change the educational landscape. Teachers’ lives may well get much worse.

Beyond credentials: one reason creative writing is attractive to students is that they’re making things. Creation feels magical. English-paper-writing is creation, too, but not of a kind students particularly want to share with others or keep practicing after graduation. That’s a real problem for the field. Co-creating websites isn’t always going to be the answer to that problem–much less websites for fictional magical liberal arts colleges–but my students’ delight in the process is a lesson to me.

Lesley Wheeler, The magic of making things

I’m absolutely delighted to have Poetry as Spellcasting in my hands! I’m so grateful to editors Tamiko Beyer, Lisbeth White, and Destiny Hemphill for including me in this gorgeous anthology, and for helping my essay become more fully realized, more deeply itself.

And while I haven’t finished the book yet, I think the power of the writing is enabling precisely that sort of transformation, helping us perceive potential and cast off constraints so that we can all be more gloriously ourselves and make the world a more beautiful and just place to exist. Just take a look at the opening of the first poem of the collection, “Awakening of Stones: Hypothesis/Central Argument” by Lisbeth White:

In the new mythology, you are always whole.
If and when you fracture, it is not apart.
Apart does not exist here.

You will know that upon entry.
You will know each fissure as it breaks open your life.
You will know the cracked edges of your splendor.

I hope you will consider buying (or borrowing!) a copy and also joining us for the virtual launch on Wednesday, May 24th, 8 PM ET, featuring Destiny Hemphill, Lisbeth White, Tamiko Beyer, Amir Rabiyah, Ching-In Chen, Lou Flores, yours truly, Sun Yung Shin, and Tatiana Figueroa Ramirez.

Hyejung Kook [no title]

Out into primordial: fairy mounds submerged and fern overtaking. Ghosts here, but good ones. Except for the ticks it’s oasis.

Dumuzi writes me all the time, though I told him not to when Kurgarra and Galatur dragged him away. It didn’t have to go down that way. Fruits of choice and all that.

Gmail doesn’t let you block people, you know? Just mark as trash.

A swallow dives. Yeah, yeah, I say. A thrush calls, then a daylight owl. Obviously, I answer.

JJS, Inanna Gets Letters

At the moment I’ve been working on a number of poems. This first one was prompted by a visit to some friends who have foxes living in their garden. They live in London. As I was leaving the phrase the fox garden came into my head and I spent the next seven days ruminating on it. When I sat down to write I got the bare bones down but it took another two weeks to get this serviceable draft right.

Paul Tobin, THE FOX GARDEN

Sometimes, from here, you can see the Isle of Man on the horizon. When you can, it’s a mirage: if the conditions are just right, the atmosphere refracts the light, making the distant island (which lies way beyond the visible horizon) appear surprisingly close. You can see its principal hills spread out from left to right. I’ve never caught it in the act of appearing or vanishing, though, although, the other evening, conditions were such that you could only see the tops of its hills poking above the milky obscurity. One can see how myths arose of magic islands that appear and vanish and, scanning the horizon to see if you can see Man from Silecroft, it’s easy to start doubting the science that tells you that what you’re witnessing is no more than an atmospheric effect.

Dominic Rivron, Silecroft

summer sea
all that glitters
is not cold

Jim Young [no title]

Because my workplace office is now in the library, however, I have been picking up the occasional, usually contemporary, novel that appears on the library’s New Acquisitions display. This is where I found R.F. Kuang’s book Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translator’s Revolution. Imagine an alternative Dickensian-era Britain, with the underlying power struggles between education and political power as per Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, and the almost-believable otherworldliness (and creative footnotes) of Susanna Clarke’s fiction…with the late-adolescent outsiders who bond over knowledge that cements the Harry Potter books…and add some genuinely academic background on linguistics and etymology.

That’s about as close as I can describe Babel by means of other books, but what I really enjoyed about the novel is the way it got me thinking about how dismayingly interconnected education and scholarly pursuits are with power structures such as governments, politics, wealth, and colonialism. Kuang deftly shows her readers how the focus on knowledge that her characters love and possess talent for inevitably leads to a narrowness in their perspectives that differs almost dangerously from an uneducated ignorance. They are good young people, but they operate as elites in a fundamentally callous system. The system either corrupts or smothers. The “fun” part of her world construct is that power operates on the use of words: on languages and their etymologies, which are magical enhancements.

But of course, power does hinge on the use of words, doesn’t it?

Ann E. Michael, Novels & words

For a while now, I’ve been lamenting that I haven’t had the chance to incorporate poems into my classes. My AP Language and Composition classes and Humanities class both suffered this year with a dearth of poems. Poetry isn’t assessed and is marginalized in many of our schools’ curricula. I suspect that this may be the case for others out there, and maybe not just English or Humanities teachers alone. If you’re a teacher of science, maths, computer science, social studies, English, business, and you want to include more poems but are not sure how to do it or where to start, what can you do?

Well, thinking about next year and changes I’d like to make to my English and Humanities classes, I recently had an idea: what if I get generative AI to show me poems that all make arguments? That way, my AP Language and Composition students can get what they need & can read more poems. What if I can get generative AI to curate poems based on units of study around the history of the U.S. and the struggle for equality? That way, my Humanities students can integrate their learning with a study of poetry. If generative AI can be used to intentionally create curricular windows into the genre I love and which is marginalized, I can also then intentionally embed poetry-reading pedagogies as I go throughout the year!

Scot Slaby, AI + Curriculum + Poems = A Powerful Combo

I thought I’d share the process of creating a poem, the draft of which is below. 

I came across John Masefield’s poem Cargo (which is below, also) and, as I sometimes do, ran it through a number of languages in Google Translate. I imagined it was something like how story or language is transmuted through various cultures as a cultural meme travels.

Then I took the raw data translation (below, 2nd) and revised it, mixing in some local and contemporary language (the Starbucks’ drink) and thought about a comment I’d made to a friend about poems as being connection machines, how in “the dance of connection, who leads?” so then I added that in, then abstracted that line a bit, making it more oblique. 

Gary Barwin, On Poem Writing with Google Translate and One Eye Closed

Don’t write just
the good ones —
write them all,
the old monk told
the poet.

Tom Montag, THREE OLD MONK POEMS (483)

For every raised voice that claims to have read a Wordsworth or a Rumi (no, these days is it Darwish and Rupi), there are a hundred that cannot name two contemporary poets. Not even one from their own country. What those wasting, shrivelling, screaming poets need, as they talk with the moon and measure the rhyme of a sea they have never seen, are cheerleaders. People who aren’t poets. People who don’t care if anyone else reads a poem or cares. People who will hype a poem, a verse, a line, a poet. Did I say that in the plural? No, a poet who thinks she is a metaphor for something yet to be known, who shuffles reality and shade, dealing cards with no hope to win or lose, that poet needs just one cheerleader. Just one. So that the morning starts with kindness. So that the afternoon sky stays up where it should be, bearing its sun. So that the night will fill itself with words like fireflies, a suggestion of light and motion that rejects being bound to a page. Think of it. A poet somewhere. A poem somewhere. Both birthed in anonymity. Both complete just from being. Just from writing. Still needing to be read. Still hoping to be read. The idea of a fruit, still waiting on a bee.

unwrapping its sky —
                                 one by one
the night shows off its stars

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Poets being poets

Rather than go back to writing, I thought I’d check emails and twitter for messages. No emails – excellent. No messages on twitter either – excellent again.

Then suddenly I saw a thread about new literary awards sponsored by a coffee shop chain. OK, So-What Stuff. Anyone who has read this blog for long knows I think the benefits of these things tend to be, in most cases, over-rated.

Then I noticed that poets were getting wonderfully grumpy because the new awards had excluded poetry. Apparently, according to the organisers, who would presumably be involved in the handing out of the money and therefore could be said to be entitled to an opinion, poetry wasn’t worth bothering with. This had provoked a river, a veritable torrent, as Frankie Howerd once might have said, of abuse from slighted poets.

It turned into the best bit of a varied morning. One poet I’d never heard of but who seemed to be assuming some kind of authority on the matter, claimed the decision of the organisers had undermined his entire art form. Marvellous.

Another called for all poets everywhere to block the coffee shop chain until the organisers changed their minds. Even more marvellous. I imagined marching protests in the street, poets holding placards maybe emblazoned with haiku, poets wearing T-shirts with angry slogans, poets shouting cross poems at anyone trying to go through the door, opening GoFundMe pages to cover legal costs, printing costs, and the price of coffees purchased at rival chains. The protests could spread across the country town by town, city by city, year by year.

Bob Mee, A MARVELLOUS MORNING: CROSS POETS, WINDOW CLEANERS AND JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES

Been late on sharing news of some of my former students: First, there’s N.K. Bailey, a PNW poet, who published a chapbook, A Collection of Homes with Bottlecap Press. Bailey is a dynamic poet whose work is intimate and imaginative. Also, I’m proud to have worked with Sarianna Quarne last fall on her honors creative thesis, the poems of which are featured in her self-published chapbook, Church Confessional Booth, which can be read for free on her site. Quarne’s work often uses the image as a jumping off point for charged, lyric meditations. Also, also: I’m happy to share that I recently had an essay of mine published in Bert Meyers: On the Life and Work of an American Master which is part of The Unsung Masters Series from Pleiades Press. I’ve written about Bert Meyers for a number of years on the Influence. Glad to have worked out this memory and experience with Meyers’ work! Thank you to Dana Levin and Adele Elise Williams for the opportunity and for being great to work with!

José Angel Araguz, poet as instagram photo dump

I was interested to see these poems because I firmly believe it is wrong for anyone to be stateless. [Mona] Kareem’s family belongs to an Arab minority denied citizenship when Kuwait became independent. Her family is classed as illegal, and therefore denied employment, education, and welfare. Despite this, her father is an erudite man. In her early twenties, Kareem went to America to study. She was not allowed back into Kuwait, so she was forced to take asylum in the USA, where she eventually gained citizenship. The suffering her family have endured is appalling. Out of this suffering, she writes. However, these poems are life-affirming, and perhaps a way for her to be present in Kuwait with her family, if only in her imagination.

Her poems are strongly visual and metaphorical. Everything is precarious and temporary. In ‘Perdition’, a series of images conjures up different losses. These images often yoke together beauty and pain: ‘the night is strangled / by a choker of stars’ is one example. The images are often surreal: Roses jump to their death/ from the rails of my bed/ as my mother/ tries to tuck me into the desert of life’. This poem is a strong opening to the book.

Angela Topping, I Will Not Fold These Maps

The joys of reviewing translations from languages one less-than-half knows are boundless. This is especially the case when the originals are by a poet I’d never heard of before; but in the case of Ivano Fermini I expect I won’t be alone in that ignorance. In fact, so little is known about Fermini that I had a moment wondering if he might be an obscure member of Robert Sheppard’s European Union of Imagined Authors, but no, he’s real enough.

On the plus side, my sketchy Italian and the lack of biographical information meant that I approached The River Which Sleep Has Told Me with an open mind. Ian Seed includes a helpful interview with Milo de Angelis, Fermini’s one-time friend and editor as a kind of preface. I was taken particularly by the statement that for Fermini, poetry was ‘a question of naming things and each time finding the right word, which is to treat each individual thing with its own unique name, that which entreats us and lies beneath dozens of other banal words, and which demands to be said with millimetric precision.’

This drive away from treating things as members of classes and towards avoiding the predictable goes some way towards making sense of the formidable disjunction that typifies Fermini’s use of language. This is easier to trace thanks to the facing-page Italian/English text, which Seed consistently mirrors in his translations. This formal procedure allows for disjunction within and across lines, with each line a gnomic utterance within a set of similar riddles.

Billy Mills, Three Translations: A Review

Oh lover, what a word,
what a world, this gray waiting.
I kept your photo in a bottle of mezcal,
touched my eyes until they blistered,
the dark liquid waking me up
in a stolen cup, white sand in my mouth

Charlotte Hamrick, You lied to me

I’m both struck and charmed by the slow progressions of lyric observation and philosophical inquiry throughout “Canadian-born poet based in Scotland” Alycia Pirmohamed’s full-length poetry debut, Another Way to Split Water (Portland OR: YesYes Books/Edinburgh: Polygon Books, 2022). “I see the wind pull down the tautness / of trees and the swans at the lagoon part / through the wreckage.” she writes, as part of the poem “MEDITATION WHILE PLAITING MY HAIR,” “Each one is another translation for love / if love was more vessel than loose thread.” There is such a tone and tenor to each word; her craft is obvious, but managed in a way that simultaneously suggest an ease, even as the poems themselves are constantly seeking answers, seeking ground, across great distances of uncertainty and difficulty. “Yes, I desire knowledge,” she writes, as part of “AFTER THE HOUSE OF WISDOM,” “whether physical or moral or spiritual. / This kind of longing is a pattern embossed / on my skin.” It is these same patterns, perhaps, that stretch out across the page into her lyric, attempting to articulate what is otherwise unspoken.

rob mclennan, Alycia Pirmohamed, Another Way to Split Water

Anthony Wilson’s sixth collection, The Wind and the Rain, is due out from Blue Diode Press next month. I was delighted to be asked to provide an endorsement for this excellent book. It reads as follows…

Throughout The Wind and The Rain, Anthony Wilson walks the tightrope of simplicity. He peels off layers of language, paring it back to its core, searching for the means to express the intensity of grief. In his skilled hands, less becomes more.

Matthew Stewart, Anthony Wilson’s The Wind and the Rain.

“Survived By” is subtitled “A Memoir in Verse and Other Poems” and dedicated to the poet’s father Terry R Wells (1945-2020). It’s a personal journey through a daughter’s reactions to her father being diagnosed with terminal cancer and what she learnt by surviving her father’s death, written with the aim of helping others. […]

Thankfully it’s not a self-help manual. […] The vocabulary is conversational, there are no attempts to dress up what’s happening in pretty metaphors or oblique messaging. “Survived By” is direct and concerned with authenticity, a human seeking compassion.

Emma Lee, “Survived By” Anne Marie Wells (Curious Corvid Publishing) – book review

I recently delivered a writing workshop at The Adelaide City Library aimed at generating new material and drafting a piece of writing using an object or piece of clothing as a prompt. I really love presenting this workshop, and am always amazed at the diversity of work produced.

Afterwards, someone asked me how they might develop their work and get better at writing poetry. They were new to poetry, didn’t plan on going to university to study but wanted to work at writing and editing poetry. I realised that I didn’t have a clear answer, so went away, thought about it and emailed them my suggestions few days later […]

After I wrote this list I was clearing out some papers when I came across an old printout from Writers SA titled Six Top Tips for Writers. The tips were almost identical to the list I’d come up with: Read, Join (a group), Learn, Practise, Enter (writing comps), Connect (with the writing community).

Caroline Reid, Want to get better at writing poetry?

I’ve always been an artist and writer who embraced and grew within the online community. There was a before time, when I scribbled and banged out bad poems on a word processor and sometimes submitted to journals via snail mail and mostly was rejected. But after 2001 or so, my identity as a creative developed entirely in the virtual world. First in online journals and listservs, later in blogs and journals like this one. It all existed long before facebook (and way long before Instagram, which I did not even join until 2017). Sure I did readings, and took MFA classes, and occasionally published in print, but the center of my creative existence was still overwhelmingly online. 

And it was good for a while. I felt like people saw the fruits of my work and I saw theirs (even this feels like its harder..I see the same posts and lots of ads, but not even a 10th of the people I follow.). Now the silence that meets dumb facebook posts about pop culture or randomness, my cat photos and lunch photos, also meets creative work. Resoundingly and absolutely. And yet, my generation knows better than everyone that the internet is not the real world, and yet it’s hard not to feel like it is… I’ve noticed a disconnect going back to the pandemic, and granted, it may have had much to do with that. I felt its undertow in 2021 and 2022. I feel it more now. Or it bothers me more now.

Weirder ad-heavy algorithms, general disengagement from the internet and social media?  Who knows..but it’s rough and I am trying to untangle my feelings of validity from it nevertheless…

Kristy Bowen, creativity and invisibility

I’ve been thinking about how poets end their poems, and particularly about poems that end in ways that delight, surprise, and lead us to deeper questions.

Here’s Charles Olson on finding the end of a poem: “You wave the first word. And the whole thing follows. But—You follow it. With a dog at your heels, a crocodile about to eat you at the end, and you with your pack on your back trying to catch a butterfly.”

And now, a selection of poems with surprising, striking endings.

Maya C. Popa, Wonder Wednesday: Poetic Endings

In a small diversion that isn’t as devious as it first appeared, I’ve been reading this essay from my friend and fellow geopoetician, the ethnologist and activist Mairi McFadye, https://www.mairimcfadyen.scot/fragile-correspondence/2023/essay dealing with the clearances and the consequences of the community buyout of Abriachan Forest. She talks about how the loss of language leads to the loss of local knowledge, the exploitation and degradation of the land, and in this case, the removal of the local people. It’s a wonderful essay, raising many of the issues and preoccupations that inform my poetry, and I can’t recommend it warmly enough.

But the point I’m working towards is that the Lang Toon doesn’t really have those problems. On the contrary, throughout its very long history, people have been brought here to serve whatever needs the ruling classes felt were important at the time, and abandoned. These houses were built for the managers of the mines, all gone, and later of the electrical industry, all gone, and now we are mostly a commuter town with people living here and working in Glasgow or East Kilbride. This too has consequences for land use, local knowledge, and community building, and though I feel there are grounds for optimism, I realise there are a lot assumptions I’m going to have to unpick as I go into the next poems, the next book.

Elizabeth Rimmer, Light and Airy

The Quote of the Week:

“The things you think are the disasters in your life are not disasters really. Almost anything can be turned around: out of every ditch, a path, if you can only see it”

Hilary Mantel.

Every week when I set my planner up, I try to find myself a motivational quote to look at; something to keep me going when I feel panicked and anxious, which always happens at some point during the week. I turn to HM quite often. This one, especially so because, while I’m writing I am weaving the story of myself, my land ancestors, the voices of people who are long gone, into the work. I want to know that the path is there, that I am finding the path for them, as much as for me. The bad things that happened to us, the bad things we did, the disasters that befell us, there was a path in there. I looked for it, and I found it.

Wendy Pratt, Never regret anything, because at one time it was exactly what you wanted.

Maybe an anonymous text taking root in the reader’s imagination is an even greater form of validation when it comes to expressive writing? Maybe the participants know this instinctively, when they hand over their texts thinking they’ve done a good job of conveying their experience to another human being? Or maybe not thinking this – not processing the actions on a conscious level – just given the opportunity to use words to communicate the way we use a knife to whittle as stick into a shape and then hold it up, without ambition, and say: do you see a horse, too?

There’s a strange Norwegian children’s song: (what follows is a trot, not an attempt at translation)

Look at my dress
It’s as red as the rose
Everything I own is as red as this
It’s because I love all that is red
And because the postman is my friend

Then we are told to look at the blue dress, because the seamen is her friend. And so it goes.

And I say: Look! This thing I am doing, jumping from a thought, to a symbol, to another person, to you – it binds everything together.

So very like a dance we can do together, even when we are physically so far apart.

Today is the first day of the new everyday. I am not and will not be dancing by myself.

Ren Powell, Look at My Dress

Someone snapped the light switch, and suddenly it’s summer.  Suddenly people are having fun.  

The question mark of an existential figure that walked the streets alone, toting laptop and phone — he’s been replaced by friends and families walking in public and laughing with glee, spilling onto streets eating and drinking.  

They’re living plush as the young grass, right now.  Something we always knew but forgot, and had to go back to origins to retrieve.  

Maybe this bright green exuberance will become parched, and our wandering techie will go back to being malcontent –  “I hate the sun!”  

But for a moment on Memorial Day weekend, Ezekiel has his day, in all his doubleness: All flesh is grass, all its goodness like flowers of the field.  

Dead soldiers had lives as frail as grass.  At the same time, all that grass – all that goodness – what splendor!

Jill Pearlman, Ezekiel Does Memorial Day

Most days
I forget.
Mind busied
with counting
how many meetings
are scheduled.

Did I make room
in the car
for my son’s double bass,
is there milk
in the house
for tomorrow’s cereal?

But then
your voice knocks
and my heart wakes,
remembering —
being alive
is revelation.

Rachel Barenblat, Revelation

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 18

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: trees, book tours, literary envy, in defense of reading fees, and much more. Enjoy.


I watched the coronation of King Charles yesterday with my parents. My father remembers watching Queen Elizabeth’s coronation as a child in South Africa. What if we crowned a leaf? Made trees our king? Or better, leaves as our elected representative, a river as the head of state. What if winter made legislation, or springtime was the judiciary? Let’s make butterflies our police force, an army out of photosynthesis.

Gary Barwin, THE NEW KING

We broke that word. We let it fall, let
it shatter into infinite sounds. When
a word is destroyed, a tree grows
from every whisper, bearing
poisonous fruit. When a world
is destroyed.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Part 45

Let the trees give the valedictory
and the billows confer their tasselled caps.

Let the noon heat gild the heads of those
who’ve labored bravely, even with no prior

guarantee of reward. Let the procession
of bodies shimmer like a promise

that kindness and comradeship will keep
rising up like wildflowers in the fields.

Luisa A. Igloria, Commencement Day

I wrote 30 poems in 30 days again this April. As my writing partner, Heather, can attest–it was tough. There were some days I doubled-up, after missing the deadline the day before. There were some days where what I sent her was less poetic than some texts. At the end of the month though, I have 30 poems.

I’ve only just now started sifting through them. I had set out with the idea of writing a group of poems about You’ve Got Mail (the movie). I have already written 3 or 4 in that vein, and I wanted to explore it further. Instead, it looks like I mostly wrote about angels, scars, and birds. Ok. Who ever knows what will pop up when one is writing every single day?

Renee Emerson, NaPoWriMo Wrap Up

I am looking forward to writing full-time for a while now. Weeks or months, I’m not sure yet. I am literally compartmentalizing my time. I’ve started a new blog to write about how I am handling cancer treatment. And I’m continuing in this space (and there, too – and in so many others) with what makes me honestly feel happy and alive in the moments as they come. I once wrote a poem that said it was absurd to say that imagination is a good thing. But it really can be. It can be a source of good things.

Ren Powell, Rumors

May is much like the interior of my email inbox right now; varied and eclectic. It bridges this spring with its publication notices, publication opportunities to come, and the business of the day that needs tending.

I published “Of Paper Moons, Glimmered Words” in the Spring 2023 issue of October Hill Magazine. I’m happy to publish with them again. They assemble a sweet journal, and it was three years ago that I not only published in their winter journal, but was invited to read my work at an online reading. It was a cozy assembly and the kindness of editors during Covid is certainly an event and aspect that lingers even today. A wonderfully warm reading all the way around.

I have shared gratitude for the editors at Cosmic Daffodil Journal who published three of my short poems: “Untitled,” “Early Spring,” and “This Pot” in their Buds & Blooms issue.

My advice to you? Write on through all the delights this month will bring. Summer is all too short. Find all the ways necessary to collect, savor, and share those words.

Kersten Christianson, May and All

Spring creeps in a little further each day, raising my mood even if it’s still a little too chilly to have the windows open for long. I have been devoting some time to submissions and collages and procrastinating on final edits on the home improvements series of poems I worked on earlier this year (thankfully the NAPOWRIMO ones only require minor modifications but I have no idea what sloppiness I was victim to earlier in the year.) I’ve been finalizing the cover design for the next book and making fun little reels about inspos and aesthetics. I’ve been researching Mesopotamian bloody baby-eating goddesses and writing about Celtic Queens and cupboard doors and bathroom towels that won’t make you hate your life. In other words, much the usual.

Kristy Bowen, notes & things | 5/6/2023

I am listening to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which I only usually do “when the skies of November turn gloomy” (to borrow a phrase from the song).  But Gordon Lightfoot has died, and it’s a gloomy May day, so the song fits my mood.

Of course, Lightfoot was 84 years old, and from what I can tell from the various news stories, he seemed to have lived a good life.  He wrote amazing songs and had a good run as a performer.  Lots of people will be reflecting on his life and appreciating him today, and plenty of us have been doing this for over 50 years.

His music is the background of my childhood, along with Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkle, and John Denver.  Yesterday on my drive back to my seminary apartment, I heard John Denver’s live version of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”–what a great song.

He also wrote songs that other people made more famous, like “Early Morning Rain.”  I’ve been listening to some of those songs this morning.  At some point, when I don’t have seminary papers to finish, I might do more reflecting on how this folk music formed my perception of what it would be like to be an adult–not because I listened to it as a child, but because I continued to listen to it in adolescence.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Gloomy Skies: Goodbye to Gordon Lightfoot

There are many blossoming trees in this glen – it started with blackthorn and plum, and is just about to hit its peak with gean and bird cherry, pear and apple. The celandines are coming to an end, but the yellow on the gorse is thickening up, there are wild violets on the Cairn footpath, and I am watching a clump of wild arum which is just about to open. It isn’t a rare plant, but I’ve never seen in elsewhere in Scotland, and judging by my instagram feed, it seems to be having a moment just now. The trees are in the first flush of bright green opening leaves, and the birds are louder each day. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many goldfinches in my life! The rain has brought on the garden enormously in the last three days, and I’ve been planting and sowing tomatoes, courgettes, chillis, dill and coriander. […]

A big part of my poetry practice is connecting with the territory, and though I mostly concentrate on the plants wildlife and weather, I have become very interested in the history and the engagement of the community here, which seems much livelier than in the Forth Valley. Every spare bit of ground that lies unoccupied for more than a few months seems to have trees planted, and as I get to know the area, I am becoming aware of a lot of organisations dedicated to keeping the urban sprawl much greener than you might expect, such as the Friends of Holmhills Wood Community Park, or the Friends of the Calder. There is an active ramblers’s group, and plenty of walking routes, from the Clyde Walkway to the Rotten Calder path, which I mentioned in a recent post, and a lot of interest in the landscape and archaeology of the area. […]

I am writing more thoughts about poetry than actual poetry just now, as there seems to be some activity around Ceasing Never, which I hope to share over the next week or so, and a revised edition of my translation of The Charm of Nine Herbs is going to happen at some point, but after a much longer lull than I was expecting, new poetry is finally happening – look out for moon and fire poems, and some weird mythology.

Elizabeth Rimmer, Blossom Time

If there is anyone still out there who reads my stuff on here, thank you. I’ve been through many stages of hell the last few years and am slowly starting to get myself to a place, a new place that is more about creativity and shaking out the demons from my bones.

I’d love to start a newsletter as well as have you subscribe to my substack (which I plan on updating soon as well). […]

I want my work in your hands, eyes, teeth.

To me, it’s not so much about surviving to create. It’s creating to survive. I am here to be creative, and to share with others so that they know they’re not alone.

Jennifer E. Hudgens, I Don’t Know Where I’m Going.

After I’d spent time at my desk, tinkering with poems, writing a bio and acknowledgements, collating blurbs, giving feedback on a possible cover, I was happy to press ‘send’ and email everything to Helen Eastman at Live Canon.

“Thanks for giving me time and space this weekend,” I said to my husband, Andrew. “I’m pleased with my work and I’m sending everything off to Helen.” “You don’t want to sleep on it and send it tomorrow?” “No, I’ve done loads of work on this, it’s all done, I’m sending it off.”

Then time for some gardening after being deskbound for hours, stretching my limbs and planting sunflower, nasturtium and cornflower seeds saved from last year’s plants, plus some new seeds, basil, gypsophlia, sweetpea, cosmos, salvia. Who knows what will grow. The garden’s ready for No Mow May, my semi-wild flower beds are already bursting with forget-me-nots, dandelions, honesty, daisies, celandines and (I think) borage, herb robert and other not yet identified species.

Then, a good night’s sleep a little interrupted by doubts arriving in the night. What about that lockdown poem you haven’t managed to publish anywhere yet? Wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity to include it? Could you swap out a couple of those small ‘seen-while-walking’ poems and replace them with this two page poem? Is this really the best order for these poems? Is that really the best poem to end the collection? Back to my desk and my manuscript for some rearranging. A hasty note to Helen to disregard my first email. Andrew’s saying nothing. Note to self: always sleep on it.

Josephine Corcoran, ‘Love and Stones’ my new chapbook coming soon

I’m once again a featured poet at the Gaithersburg Book Festival, an absolutely wonderful festival that is FREE and open to the public and has a wonderful list of authors who will be reading and discussing and taking questions. […]

On Sunday, 21 May at 5:30pm I’m reading with Reston Readings, a local reading series that is always delightful.

And last but definitely not least is my official book launch party at the end of the month!! […]

May is going to be wildly busy but I’m so very excited about it and hope to see you at one of these events!

Courtney LeBlanc, Book Tour: May

Hereverent has been thoroughly and lovingly launched!

My poetry & jazz book launch was fantastic on April 20 at PLNU. We had poetry, music, drinks, and dessert in this little parlor that makes me feel like a wealthy great aunt has invited me to tea. :) I’m so grateful to Brenda Martin for her gorgeous music and her fun improv collaborations! (And thanks to Emma McCoy for the photo!)

Then my virtual book launch for Hereverent on April 21 was also lovely. What a gift to hear poets I adore read my poems alongside theirs. I’m so grateful to Agape Editions for publishing and celebrating my book! […]

Finally in this countdown to launch, 15 of my favorite local poets read with me in my church’s sanctuary this past Saturday night, and I brought my favorite brownies (a recipe from my beloved dissertation advisor, Marthe Reed), and many more dear friends and delightful people came to celebrate my new book too.

Katie Manning, Hereverent Launches!

Yes, all the waiting is over – if you pre-ordered the book, or were waiting for the book to be available from BOA or Amazon or you wanted to review it on Amazon, the 9th is the day! That’s tomorrow!

In celebration, I’ll be taking over BOA Edition’s feed on Instagram May 9th, 10th, and 11th so keep your eyes out for that! I’ll talk about inspirations, making cocktails, playlists, and more. I’m a little bit nervous because I’m not the world’s most confident Instagram user, but hopefully I have respectable posts and stories. Isn’t it funny that now Instagram videos are part of promoting a book? That wasn’t true the last time one of my books came out. Ah, how things change!

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Ready for Launch? Flare, Corona’s Official Pub Date Arrives, an Upcoming Open Books Reading with Martha Silano, Instagram Takeovers, Plus More Pics of Tulips and Parties

Here’s the truth about envy, judgement, and comparisons: the other person feels none of the bitterness, defeat, and ire you feel. You—exclusively you—feel the discomfort, and it’s a slow poison you mix with your own particular brand of injustice and insecurity, then self-administer.

At various misguided moments, we can come to believe that envy is a motivator. If that were true, feeling it just once would do the trick to skyrocket us into productivity and success. More often what happens is this: we feel discouraged, then immediately seek to buffer the feeling. Judgement, Netflix, potato chips: all effective buffers. None of these, however, is a catalyst for growth, development, or change. None is half as powerful as reading a book, sitting with a draft, or going for a walk.

You alone can make a conscious effort to ease yourself of these unnecessary feelings in 2023. How? By noticing them and calling them what they are. Then, by diffusing them by focusing on yourself. What is my envy/comparison/jealousy telling me about what I want? And how can I take the step towards what I want, instead of sitting here paralyzed by indignation, elbow deep in a bag of Fiesta Doritos?

Maya C. Popa, Progress Report: Literary Resolutions

Many agendas may drive the urge to bash particular writers or their works, among these envy, attention, pride, status, self-preservation, righteous indignation, or a sense that one needs to scramble to make space for oneself in an already small environment (“the literary world”). Even, dare I say, ignorance. I could speculate on reasons for unkindness until the proverbial cows come dawdling home, but I suppose it can be attributed to a kind of social Darwinism. People can be mean-spirited when threatened. Though exactly how the writing of poetry poses a threat to other poets remains a mystery to me.

Maybe I am a Pollyanna (entirely possible), but although I can recall some incidents and critiques that have stung me, there have been far more instances of generosity from fellow writers. While contemplating writing this post I sat back and decided to count how many fellow writers have extended courtesy, respect, useful advice, helpful criticism, networking and publication leads, encouragement, and the sense that I’ve “been seen”–acknowledgment as a writer–and I found the list was long. I considered listing names, but there are so many…and I was afraid I’d inadvertently overlook someone. I consider this an excellent “problem” to have.

Granted, some stings have been…memorable. However, I’ve been writing and publishing poetry and related prose since the early 1980s, so there have been many years during which I’ve had the joy of connecting with other writers in generous ways. Writing is both a large community and a small one, depending upon where I am in my own life: local at times, semi-isolated other times, and then–thanks to social media platforms, with which I have love/hate relationships–national and international!

As I get ready to pull back a bit from my work in the realm of higher education, I hope that the lessons I have learned about being generous to my students, gently encouraging while pointing out areas to keep working on, will stay with me. My feeling about poetry is that there’s certainly room for more of it in a world which can be harsh, and that acknowledging other humans’ urge to express their awe, fear, grief, passion, love, anger, and perspective won’t actually harm many of us.

Ann E. Michael, Generosity

Publishers aren’t charity operations (though it often feels that way), despite the enduring myth that there is something noble and good about the literary industry. It’s still a business, and it’s still operating under the same suffocating tenets of capitalism that writers are. Lumpenproletariat or not.

Alas, the writer’s personality consists of the yin and yang qualities of self-hatred and self-aggrandizement. It is the latter quality that so often comes into play when they submit a piece. They think their writing is special or “god’s gift” and that it should therefore not only be immediately accepted, but that the publisher should waive any fees for the sheer pleasure of reading their work. But newsflash: reading submissions is not a pleasure. About five percent of the pool will actually be enjoyable. It’s that five percent that keeps the publisher going. Fighting the fucking windmills while the schlock in The New Yorker is touted as some sort of literary high standard.

Genna Rivieccio, On Submission Fees and the Belief that Publishers Are Pirates

This particular advert, however, seemed seriously weird. It wanted an exceptional poet and tutor to be a part of a happy and successful team. Happy kept cropping up. The school, it said, is a happy place. It provides a happy environment.

The candidate it said would be an established member of the literary world (so one of the boys and girls, then) with an excellent academic background, a PhD in English or Creative Writing (naturally, what else would you expect?), and experience of teaching at graduate level. Blah-de-blah. Highly skilled. Blah-de-blah. Supportive, Understanding. Blah-de-Blah.

Ok, fair enough, I wouldn’t get in. I’m not qualified. I don’t mean academically, though that’s true. My ancient BA Hons is nowhere near good enough, even if I knew where the proof of it was. No, it’s the happy bit I couldn’t do. I doubt I could even do it at the interview (not that I’d get one).

I grew up in journalism, grew middle-aged and grew old in journalism. We knew what happy was, especially when we’d had a drink or four. We knew what angry, passionate, bad-tempered and noisy was too. When we wrote, we wrote alone. We wrote in doubt, asking ourselves questions, trying to get what we wanted to say down as best we could and as truthfully as we could. We were alive. Are these people in that supportive, understanding, positive, constructive, happy world really alive?

Bob Mee, THE POETRY ACADEMICS vs JOHN STEINBECK

Back in August of 2022, I wrote the blog post, Browsing the Archive on a Summer Afternoon, in which I talk about my pleasure at revisiting my collection of journals that have published my work over the years. I realize that I neglected to point out something very important: writers should read all of the contributor’s copies they receive.

I do mean all. If you primarily write poetry, then of course you should read all of the poetry, but don’t stop there. If the journal includes fiction, reviews, and essays, read all of them too. If you write prose, read the poetry! As Virginia Woolf wrote, “The impact of poetry is so hard and direct that for the moment there is no other sensation except that of the poem itself.” Woolf wrote prose, but she definitely “got” poetry. Poets dream of readers who appreciate their craft with such deep understanding.

Reading every page of your contributor’s copy, whether in a physical journal or online, connects you to a community of writers, because each journal is its own community. I sometimes imagine the other writers who sent their work to a particular publication at the same moment as I did. What were they doing just before they hit “send” or “submit?” It’s entirely possible that some of us sent work simultaneously, our words traveling through the ether and arriving at the magazine’s inbox at the exact same moment. There’s a kind of mystery about this process that’s always intrigued me.

Erica Goss, You Should Read Every Page of Your Contributor’s Copy

I will be reading next week at Shelton Timberland Library with poet friends Cathy Warner, Gary E. Bullock, and Dan Coffman (and maybe a few other Washington poets if it works out!). Cathy Warner and I have been friends since 2012 when we both found ourselves new to Bainbridge Island. While she and I have both moved about since then, our poetry friendship has stayed intact. Gary and Dan are new poetry friends who I met in a workshop class with poet Gary Copeland Lilley and whom I have not met in person due to COVID, but will now be able to meet in person! It is not hyperbole to say all my poet friends and connections are what got me through those long three years of isolation. Come and hear us read. Come celebrate our connection to poetry and each other.

Carey Taylor, Upcoming Reading!!

It’s not just the practical blocks – lack of time, being interrupted etc – it’s the psychological blocks, and the societal blocks that prevent people, particularly older women, from writing. There is a prejudice in society that says that older women are, at best dull, at worst invisible. When I searched the stock photo database, pexels, for a header photo for this post, I searched ‘older woman writing’ and found virtually nothing. When I searched ‘older man writing’ I found plenty. When I searched ‘writer’ I found plenty of young women with beautiful nails holding pastel notebooks, and lots of older men at gnarly wooden desks grumpily screwing up pieces of paper. I use this as an example because these stock photos are the pictures that the media uses as an example of what is present in society: as examples of products, as examples of aesthetic lifestyles to strive for, as examples of, you might even say, what is the acceptable face, or the seen face, or the most associated-with face, of a product, a person, a genre, a section of society.

We know older women writers exist. Just looking at my own over filled bookcases I can see them everywhere – Hilary Mantel (God, I miss Hilary Mantel so much) Margaret Atwood, Maggie O’Farrel… but somehow the perception still seems to be that older women at the beginning of their careers, those not established yet, do not exist.

Wendy Pratt, How to Give Yourself Permission to Write

But the important part here is the student loans, because those things literally made it possible for me to go to and stay in college. See, that full-time job paid maybe $10 an hour, which was okay money for working in Hammond, Louisiana in 1995 but not enough money to support a family and pay tuition, and really wasn’t enough money to support myself as a newly-single person, pay tuition and pay child support.

So I took out loans, every one I could get, and for the next four years as an undergrad, I would start my semester in line to pay my tuition, get two checks for the balance over what my tuition was, and immediately sign one of those checks over to my ex-wife. Pretty much the same for my grad school experience.

So now it’s 2005. I’ve got my MFA, I’ve just done two years at Stanford as a Stegner Fellow and I have my first full-time university teaching job. I’m a lecturer at Florida Atlantic University teaching a 4/4 and making $30,000 or so a year, which is more than I’ve ever made per year in my life at the time, and which is not enough to live in south Florida, not really, so I go into economic hardship deferral until that time runs out and then forbearance and at some point in there, there’s a program that allows you to pay based on your income and also we move to Iowa because Amy gets the job she has now at Drake University. I’m making payments, but they’re not large enough to even cover the interest and if this part of the story sounds familiar that’s because there are a lot of people in similar boats.

Brian Spears, A little personal news

What appears to be a simple poem covers so much ground…Masculinity, memory—both positive and the (I think) implicit nod to poverty at the end in ‘the hungry roots beneath’. It’s an entirely different poem, but it puts me in mind of Paul Farley’s poem about Treacle. I love the musicality of the poem, particularly in the first stanza, and I raise a pint of Kingfisher (NB I mean cup of tea—it’s now 7.30am) to the internal rhymes of ‘furnaces’ and ‘curry houses’. We’ll also give ‘curve and ‘trove’ and ‘pucker’ and ‘nutter’, a respectful nod too.

I bought this book from Andy via Facebook a year or so ago, so my apologies it’s taken me this long, but I was hooked in by him saying it was pretty much his last copy. Take note: I’m an absolute sucker for that so, so make sure you use the scarcity bias[.]

Mat Riches, High and (Mar)mighty…aka A Toast To Marmite aka Boys For the Black Stuff

M Archive: After the End of the World by Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a stunning collection of poetry. Inspired by M. Jacqui Alexander’s Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred, a transnational black feminist text, Gumbs envisions humanity at the end of the world. While there is struggle, this is not the typical depiction of humanity as viciously and violently struggling for survival, but a vision of humanity as transformational. As the environment and world shifts (due to human causes), humanity takes to the dirt, sky, fire, and sea, creating new communities and ways of being. It’s a beautiful, compelling and hopeful depiction.

Andrea Blythe, Culture Consumption: April 2023

‘Snow’ does all the right poemy things. The sounds match the sense. The world is busy, busier than we realise and so is a phrase like ‘soundlessly collateral and incompatible’. Then there’s that tangerine. The words come down to single, propulsive syllables, so that you almost have to spit to say ‘spit the pips and feel’. But there is a deliberate unpoeticness to ‘Snow’, too, an awkwardness of phrasing and language, and this is one of the things I like most about it. (That and the refusal to explain: why is there more than glass between the snow and the roses?)

Jeremy Wikeley, incorrigibly Plural

This poem began in my car with my kids sitting together in the backseat. As we sat at a traffic light, watching some workers cut the limbs off a tree, my daughter said the body of this poem in almost these words exactly. I don’t recall if I wrote it down (or typed it into the notes app on my phone) right away, or if I remembered what she said and wrote it down later, but the process involved paring down the description to its essentials, looking carefully at line breaks and opportunities for music, and maintaining her voice the best I could (“the sky’s like finally” is one of those moments, but I also love the long I assonance in that phrase). I think the pauses after “branch” and “blue” are doing a lot in the poem. Those line breaks slow down the pace and give the reader time to reflect. I see the break between “branch” and “hits the ground” as enacting the branch’s fall and landing.

I found this idea comforting when my marriage ended: When something is gone, it makes space for something else. In this case, the tree losing its limbs made space for the sky. The view changed. My perspective changed with it.

Maggie Smith, Behind-the-Scenes Look: Two Related Poems

This is observational humour at its best: the humour of recognition. Waldron catches those unguarded moments that betray our weaknesses; he observes and reports the embarrassing that we would rather not admit to; he exposes those frailties that make us human. For example, The Sweet Smell of Failure is a cautionary tale which shows the romantic consequences of not changing one’s underpants regularly;  Digging in my Archives explores a life of pretensions; Valentines Day tells of a major romantic failure; and Shop (lift) Local exposes the limitations of our moral compass when we’re offered a bargain. There is something of us all in these poems. In his drop-in Waldron describes the imagined persona narrating the poems as a ‘37-year-old man’. Yet there is something universal about these poems. When we laugh at him, we are laughing at ourselves, man, or woman. In fact, there is something of ‘Everyman’ about these poems, but without the moral imperative!

Nigel Kent, Review of ‘My C&A Years’ by Roger Waldron

A follow-up to the creative non-fiction and poetry title Album Rock (Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s NL: Boulder Books, 2018) is St. John’s, Newfoundland poet Matthew Hollett’s full-length poetry debut, Optic Nerve: poems (Kingston ON: Brick Books, 2023). Through an assortment of first-person poems set in a lyric simultaneously narrative and cinematic, Hollett offers a descriptively-thick and finely-honed intimate portrait of east coast space. “It took two of us to haul the river out of its box / and wrangle its segments together like vertebrae / or slabs of sidewalk. As rivers go,” he writes, to open the poem “Waters Above and Waters Below,” “this one had been / stepped in more than twice, its leisurely ripples and eddies / scuffed with footprints from small armies / of schoolkids.” Hollett works his lyric as a way of examining small moments of time, comparable to how Michael Crummey wrote contemporary and historic Newfoundland through his Passengers: Poems (Toronto ON: Anansi, 2022) [see my review of such here], or how Michael Goodfellow wrote his personal Lunenberg County, Nova Scotia through Naturalism, An Annotated Bibliography: Poems (Kentville NS: Gaspereau Press, 2022) [see my review of such here]. One could say that all three of these poets are simply following elements of Newfoundland-based poet and editor Don McKay [see my review of his 2021 collection Lurch here], and that would be entirely correct, each writing their own small perceptions through carved lyric observations. Weighed down through the dark, there is significant and even pragmatic light in these lines. “If you find yourself lost,” the poem “Coriolis Borealis” begins, “try not to walk in circles. A forest / is an aura of revolving doors, every spruce or fir is / a celestial body that wants you in its orbit. For the first / twenty-four hours, you’d be wise to stay put.” Across his densely-packed Optic Nerve, Hollett writes short moments and scenes, fully aware of the differences in seeing and perception, writing narratives many of which are centred in and around Halifax. “In Halifax it greets me like a gauntlet of bear traps.” he writes, to open the poem “Shipshape.” “Sidestepping swollen potholes on Quinpool, I pass a traffic island / with its mascara of snow, a bicycle wheel crushed into a taco, / a bird’s nest asquint with icicles.”

rob mclennan, Matthew Hollett, Optic Nerve: poems

There’s a primarily Anglo-Saxon obsession among so-called experts with attempting to turn wine into a dry, dead subject, to reduce it to exams (WSET/MW stuff) and points (Robert Parker, etc).

And then there’s the marketing ploy, often used by pubs and restaurants, of flogging wine by grape variety. This supposedly makes everything easier for the consumer to order once they’ve decided that they like, for instance, Sauvignon Blanc, in an impossible struggle to simplify things. Of course, such a strategy ignores the vagaries of soil, climate, grower and winemaker, all of which mean that there a huge gamut of Sauvignon Blancs. Many of them barely resemble each other in a comparative tasting.

Much the same could be said of poetry. It too is a slippery, incredibly complex subject that defies repeated critical and academic attempts at pigeonholing and classification. Poets are categorised but they defy those labels on a regular basis because the genre is alive and constantly shape-shifting.

In both poetry and wine, the more you know, the more you realise you know nothing. 

Matthew Stewart, Pigeonholing in wine and poetry

Sure. The whole project misconstrued or misconceived.
Thunderstorm at dawn: deep dark with lightning,
and now a morning pretending nothing ever happened,
but a gore of draggled blossom spread across the walk.

Dale Favier, Making My Heart Beat

My chalkboard poems alternate now between humor and sad nostalgia with images from the natural world, spring blooming all around, and a subtext of the long goodbye. Last night, a woman asked if I was still writing poems and if I had ever been in the New Yorker, which reminded me of a fairly recent personal rejection from the New Yorker asking to see more, and my inaction upon that. Uh oh. “I want to see you in print,” the woman said, and I realized again how few people, even those who love me, know that I am very often in print, or in online magazines, and have several chapbooks out there in the world. But I do feel loved and appreciated, especially for the chalkboard poems, which are short and connect to people’s lives. I love those people back.

Kathleen Kirk, Candy House

when there’s
no memory of
the moment of
passage and
tissue and salts
have gone to
the denizens
themselves now
gone to earth
those feathers
make a brave
show folded
still into the
intelligence
of flight as if
they might still
know the air

Dick Jones, wing.

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 16

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: poetry and knowledge, the uses of obscurity, what success feels like, poetry and family, and much more. Enjoy.


I try to imagine what life was like for King Charles The Sixth of France, who believed he was made of glass.

Terrified of shattering, he put iron rods in his clothes, wrapped himself in blankets. Refused to wash.

He was covered in lice and sores when his courtiers finally forced him, screaming, into a steaming bath.

He tried to hide beneath the water. He tried to lie very still. As the courtiers lifted him out and dried him, he saw the condensation on his glass skin and beyond the window of his soul, only rain.

Mostly, I have nothing to do with people. Especially poets. Poets are not born to be of use. They are born to be meticulously casual. Some of them even like to be photographed wearing scarves. Casually. Yes, poets are in long supply. Mostly, I have nothing to do with them.

Poets do things like spend hours finding words within words, then list them in notebooks for future poems.

Bob Mee, MOSTLY, I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH PEOPLE. ESPECIALLY POETS.

I don’t think I’m alone in often picking up poetry books that remind me of my own poems—or poems a couple tiers up, aspirational Bethany Reid poems. But today’s book spun me, and made me want to tear everything down and start over.

Maybe by taking better notes in the Astronomy class I took from Bruce Margon in 1985. Maybe by taking my kids to more museums and fewer playlands.

No matter, it was my great pleasure to spend the morning with these poems, and this poet, someone I am pleased to say is, like me, a northwest poet. Or “northwest poet plus the universe.” From the Big Bang to La-Z-boys, it’s a book that drenches you in specific language, leaves your head buzzing with Astro-physics and Da Vinci, madonnas and Neanderthals. (And so much Italian food.) I hardly know where to begin.

Bethany Reid, Martha Silano, Reckless, Lovely

Timaeus. The only piece of Plato’s writing directly known to the early medieval world.

Plato is quite clear that the universe is “a single living thing that contains within itself all living things, mortal or immortal.” A living thing. How lovely that is, and how different from the dead universe of scientific materialism. In Plato, everything is against a living background.

Note that every human being has two souls, a mortal one based in the trunk and an immortal one based in the head, with further subdivisions and hierarchy within the mortal one. And it is part of the lower soul, seated in the liver, that dreams and practices divination. (Which must then be interpreted by the rational upper soul to make it useful knowledge.)

Dale Favier, A Living Thing

Poems may inhere in the emotional or intellectual realm in many ways, but they also can–and often do–inform. They contain facts as well as multitudes. If people did not get so hung up on trying to decode a secret meaning behind everything they encounter that appears to be a poem, they might be surprised at how much they could learn from such (usually) brief texts. Yes, it might help to look up a word or a reference or two. That can get a reader started on a whole trail of interesting and valuable knowledge, widening the worldview, changing the perspective.

It may even lead a person to recognize that facts can change depending on point of view. Contemporary science acknowledges this, but most human beings haven’t accepted it yet. Anyway, this points to one reason poetry has often been considered unconventional, subversive, even dangerous or radical: Poems can challenge the status quo of what is accepted, received, unquestioned in society’s knowledge base. Terrifying the authorities by means of information.

Ann E. Michael, Information from poems

My thanks to Hilary Menos and Andy Brodie for publishing an essay by me, here, which is intended for those who know a bit, but not a lot necessarily, about haiku in English.

Matthew Paul, Essay on The Friday Poem

Not much new to report on the poetry writing front, except for a dozen or so poems in submission (“in submission”? Should it be “under submission”? I won’t say ‘Under consideration” because that suggests the darn things are actually being read by someone, and there’s no knowing if that’s the case. Anyway I think I like “in submission”.)

Now you see this is the kind of nit-picking that the writing of poetry demands, is it not? When it may take an hour to decide on whether in or under is best. This is one reason I’m enjoying writing a first draft of My Novel. I’m just motoring through, sitting back and enjoying the action, as if it were Midsummer Murders. I guess at some point I’ll have to go back and refine it a tad, which might mean pondering those kinds of SHOULD IT BE ‘GOWN’ OR KIRTLE’ HERE? questions that few readers in the end would care about, but I can’t put my wee novel in submission with anyone until I’ve polished it up I suppose. I just hope I don’t hate the whole thing and ditch it when it’s done, which is typically my poetry MO.

Robin Houghton, And in other writing…

More numbers. I’ve been writing them in columns for the last financial year (still no spreadsheets). The average number of books sold per year since the start of CBe is around 2,500, and last year was a little below that. No bookshop could be run on that. For the authors’ sake I should be selling more. On the other hand, I’m still here, having stumbled upon a way of doing this that doesn’t require me to abide by all the prescriptions of the industry experts.

Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma was written in November and December 1838 and published the following April. I once took on a book in December and, when the author told me he was dying, published it the following February, but in 2023 that’s not usually how it’s done: books are not published for at least a year, often longer, after they are taken on because you need a marketing campaign and Advance Reading Copies and puff quotes on the cover, all the stuff I don’t enjoy and am therefore not good at.

I don’t think CBe is a throwback. Nor is it the work of a man who lives off-grid in a shed in a field. I use the internet and typesetting software and digital printing and can learn new tricks when it suits me. I mean: when it suits someone of a certain age and temperament. I am lucky and privileged (not rich) to be able to do this.

Charles Boyle, Blue

How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I used to write a lot of personal essays, particularly in college. They were all hyper lyrical and suffered from a lack of cohesion and scattered, imagistic narratives. Eventually I gave up on being able to write something extended that could make ‘sense’ in the way that fiction and non-fiction tend to. So I ended up committing to the thing that made my brain feel safest. Poetry was, is, really good for the way I think: which tends to be deeply affective, wildly associative, etc. It’s the only place where I don’t have to feel ashamed for not having my thoughts altogether—and often, not having my thoughts altogether makes the poems more interesting (though the editing thereafter becomes a nightmare…) I’m suddenly worrying now because I’m remembering the much-quoted Auden phrase, “Poetry might be defined as the clear expression of mixed feelings.” Maybe let’s all focus on the “might be” part.

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Tawanda Mulalu (rob mclennan’s blog)

Take three hairs of the sleepless one.
Lightly coat them with olive oil,

smooth them together, then braid them
with two thin threads, cotton & wool.

Don’t think of when your grandmother
picked cotton on the farm, instead

simplify. Cotton is just clouds.
Leave the home, wait, and then return.

PF Anderson, A CHARM FOR SLEEPING #NaPoWriMo

Very little can be trusted, only that the sun will rise come morning, and even that promise has been written in a slowly disappearing ink. With all the baptismal rivers drying up, it can be tough to get a warm welcome into the world. If only breath were the new currency, we’d strive for one another to remain alive.

Rich Ferguson, Open Letter to the Dead Awake

I’ve some understanding about the uses of obscurity (see my poetry and obscurity article for example) but over the years I’ve come to distrust authors more often. I’m less willing to battle through obscurity if I see no purpose in it other than trying to mask the author’s inadequacies – if I think the author without aesthetic loss could have reduced the muddle. I’d like more authors to appreciate the disadvantages of using obscurity – e.g. that readers might stop reading, might think the author thoughtless, elitist, or rude.

Amongst the newer examples of obscurity I see nowadays is when in the same book a poet uses various alternatives to line-breaks, and sometimes uses inline spaces instead of commas. If a poet makes readers think that there’s a purpose (meaning) to something, the poet shouldn’t be surprised when readers are frustrated to discover that there is no reason why “/” is used in one poem, “|” in another and line-breaks in another. Poetry layouts can all too easily become obscure – even good old line-breaks are often puzzling enough.

Tim Love, The reader-writer relationship

Well, this news hasn’t sunk in yet, but here goes: You Could Make This Place Beautiful is a New York Times bestseller. An Ohio poet’s (decidedly feminist, undeniably lyrical) memoir is #3 on the hardcover nonfiction list.

No hard feelings, Harry.

I thought maybe I could sleep on it, and it would feel real this morning. I didn’t, and it doesn’t. […]

No matter where I am, maybe the best part of each event is chatting with people as I sign their books. That time is brief but meaningful. Over the last week I laughed a lot, cried a little, and met some friends IRL for the first time. (I’m traveling again this weekend and next, so check out the tour schedule, which I’ll be updating with additions again soon, and do come if I’m in your neck of the woods!)

I think of this memoir as an argument for possibility. This morning, still bewildered by the news and by how far the book is traveling, I believe more than ever that anything is possible. Anything. Thank you for that.

Maggie Smith, On Gratitude & Possibility

Try to write a line that is pure.
That is to say, a quiet
dazzling.

A line that, even if it should start
without fanfare, jumps hurdle
after hurdle, swings

over the high bar
then raises both hands
upon landing

though there is
no one in the stands
keeping score.

Luisa A. Igloria, Floor Routine

On her birthday I tend to, or try to, give myself over to being in her presence. To ‘be in her presence’ has changed over time. The further away we get from her physical self, the less I can imagine her. It has become about remembering this time, how it shaped me, as much as it is about remembering her. This is time passing. I never realised grief would change. This is grief. Grief starts as a boulder that you have to carry around with you, that takes up an entire room, that is all you can think about, but slowly, slowly it erodes from your touch, until, eventually, it is pocket sized, smoothed from your hand, familiar, something you rub your thumb over and take out to examine occasionally.

After When I Think of My Body as a Horse came out, I decided not to write more poems about her, or the experience. But on her birthday I write a poem as a marker, a moment of her loss, how it continues to ripple through my life. I’ll be back next week with a normal post.

Wendy Pratt, Poem for my daughter, on what would have been her thirteenth birthday.

As a child-free person, I both feared and was at the same time curious about alternative lives, the sum of the life of my mother, the sort of things you lose from your own childhood when a parent is gone. This is especially true in my fully orphaned state, where I will think of something and realize that there is no one who knows the answer to a question.  No one shares certain early memories and information–barring my sister, but she’s younger and therefore less reliable. I have a couple of aunts left on either side, ample cousins, a friend of my mother. But if they do not remember things, who besides me does? Who will when they are gone? When I am? I supposed the great thing about being a writer is that, well, everyone will.  Here in this blog, in our books, in our poems. In the stories we tell. I would have been a terrible mother–impatient and probably resentful of the time suck of raising children– as well as I was at least. I don’t have a nurturing bone in my body. But sometimes I wonder what turn things would have taken under other circumstances and conditions. Definitely not regrets (enough harried stressed mommy instagram reels and I am wondering how and why anyone has children ever. In mean, EVER.)   

These poems probably came from these feelings, which are deeper, but also just a hilarious interest board where a woman bougie-ly outfitted an imaginary child in baby Ralph Lauren and beige Montessori toys. They’re some of my favorite poems (though, like children, I say that about all my poems.)

Kristy Bowen, self-elegies and imaginary daughters

I didn’t post this part of the poem on my website after he died. Of course I didn’t. But this is who he was. He was a good man in some ways and unbending in others and that caused me no end of pain at times. I could not be the person I am without him but I also wish I could have been enough for him as I was, as I became.

Brian Spears, Everybody’s got a Jeoffry

The parents will come to our house in a few days, and then we’ll have our Woodinville Birthday Party/Book Launch at J. Bookwalter’s Winery with cupcakes, a little poetry reading, and a LOT of wine and celebrating on April 30. I’m turning 50 and having my book come out the same week, just a few days after a solar eclipse, which seems appropriate given the book’s cover. Kelli [Russell Agodon] will also be a guest reader and family and friends are welcome, so if you want to come celebrate with us, here’s the info in a graphic Glenn made. Wine, poetry, and cupcakes! What could be better than that?

Jeannine Hall Gailey, What a Week! Flare, Corona Makes Ms. Magazine’s Best Poetry of the Year List, A New Poem in Sixth Finch, Reports from a Redmond Reading and Speculative Lecture for Writer’s Digest, Upcoming 50th Birthday Party

I have a poem, titled La Vendimia, in the new pamphlet/mini anthology from Candlestick Press, Ten Poems about Wine.

I’m grateful to the editor, Jonathan Davidson, for having selected my work, and it’s especially pleasing to appear alongside such a star-studded cast. You can get hold of your copy via this link, while here’s a photo of the pamphlet in all its glory…

Matthew Stewart, Ten Poems about Wine from Candlestick Press

The week before last I wrote something for Engelsberg Ideas about Philip Larkin’s Oxford Anthology of Twentieth Century English Verse, which was published fifty years ago last month (a hook’s a hook). You can read it here.

Larkin’s anthology is often remembered for its idiosyncrasies, but those led him to some brilliant poems which might otherwise have been passed over – at least by me (poets, too: I have just got a copy of Tony Connor’s collection Lodgers). The assembly process also forced Larkin to reconsider at least some of his own ideas about modern poetry – and raised some provocative questions about what anthologies are really for.

Thinking about Larkin wrestling with contemporary poetry is a reminder, for me, that he wasn’t always the isolated figure he is sometimes made out as. In his 1993 biography, Andrew Motion expressed some surprise his friend had even agreed to the commission. But he also placed the book in the context of the various other ways in which Larkin was supporting poets at the time – serving on committees, judging awards, reviewing books (Larkin chaired the Poetry Book Society during the 1980s).

Though the opportunity to edit the anthology came about by chance (the publisher’s first choice, Louis MacNeice, had died unexpectedly), it could be seen as a culmination of those efforts. In Motion’s account, it was also a turning point: Larkin, he argued, ultimately found the experience of returning to Oxford – where he had taken a sabbatical to finish the reading and where he had once been a student – deeply depressing. Once he was back in Hull, he settled more deeply into his self-imposed isolation.

Jeremy Wikeley, Larkin, Again

After I sat with Yeats for a few minutes, I turned off the computer and the lights and got ready for bed.  My bedtime reading has been from a different poet, Maggie Smith’s You Could Make This Place Beautiful.  Yesterday I saw her post that the book is #3 on the NYT best seller list.  Hurrah!  It’s a well deserved spot; I’ve been enjoying the book immensely.

I’m happy for her success; it’s good to see a woman poet succeed this way.  I’m happy when I see anything that tells me that people are still buying books, and I’m even happier when people are buying the books of poets, even if it’s not their volumes of poetry.  I’m happy when a woman outside of New York City is finding publishing success.

You Could Make This Place Beautiful is the book that I was hoping Keep Moving would be.  I liked the inspiration that Keep Moving gave me, those nuggets that first appeared on Twitter.  But I found myself wanting more about Smith’s life as a poet, and You Could Make This Place Beautiful gives me that window into her life as a writer.  She’s also very honest about the price that came with her success.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Things Fall Apart and Come Together

sea filling the bay
in the oneness of a sigh
we are together

Jim Young [no title]

“Tropic Then” combines climate, natural and humanitarian concerns. The poems explore attitudes towards the natural world and towards each other. DiZazzo’s focus is on interconnectedness whether the interrelationships that allow ecosystems to thrive or how families treat and care for each other. A successful family, like a successful ecosystem, is capable of catering for all needs and enables the vulnerable to be taken care of. How a child is cared for will shape their attitude when elderly parents need care. How does one generation shape the next and does the next generation continue the same mistake patterns or challenge and change their behaviour? DiZazzo thinks we need to reconnect and learn from nature’s teachers and his method is not polemic or rant but through example and persuasion.

Emma Lee, “Tropic Then” Ray DiZazzo (2Leaf Press) – book review

Yawning, you say you’re too tired 
yet we can’t refuse
brown-eyed pleading at the door.

Away from these walls we more easily silence
sorrow, hardship, loss
by looking, only looking.

Cows in the lower pasture raise their heads as we pass.
A Baltimore oriole alights on a hickory fencepost
twined with yellow flowers. The sun stretches
generous arms of light cloud to cloud.

Laura Grace Weldon, Cocoa Bean

If you love something enough it becomes real. And it lasts for always. There’s a lesson that has stuck. An academic lesson in one sense, but in another the truth of devotion. I have been devoted to an idea or a perspective and it has become real in every sense that matters. These are the monsters in my writing room.

Always question our gurus. External and internal. Be no more devoted to them as you are to the oxpeckers with their good intentions and singular focus.

The artistic director is on board with my project of sampling Shakespeare. I don’t see it as being any less respectful than a total modernizing of the language. I am making no absurd claims of authorship of the original text. I could argue I am picking up Shakespeare’s own practice of “lifting” from other works.

Ren Powell, Letter as Plot Device

So maybe we’re not exactly who we were anymore. That’s fine, too. But let’s have a little ceremony for ourselves then, let’s raise a glass, yes? To the way things happen, that’s all they ever do. As in the video, let’s raise a glass to the ways we’re all pretending a bit but at least we can pretend together. And maybe that too is how we can come back to ourselves.

Shawna Lemay, Coming Back to Yourself

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 15

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 or subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader. This week: springs early and late, unconventional approaches to publishing, and bibliophilia out the wazoo. Among a ton of other topics, as always.

I’m still seeing how I like Mondays as the new day for this. But while I’m dithering, I’ve gone ahead and created a site to mirror these digests on Substack, especially for the convenience of poets who are blogging there, but also for anyone who wants an easy way to subscribe just to the digests: ReVerse. The plan is to keep it free, but if I ever find myself living under a bridge, I might start charging some nominal subscription fee and schedule the free versions here to post a day or two later.


In the greening treetops
near a bird’s nest
a busy squirrel

Mind stuck on a branch
it leaps to another

Propositions made
then negated

Jill Pearlman, The Art of Squirrel as Poem

When is spring going to come? It’s a question I’ve heard repeatedly in recent weeks.

Last Monday, as I drove in the dark to pick my daughter up from work, rain pounding my windshield, I had a moment of disorientation. It felt like a December night, and I was suddenly unmoored from calendar time. Was it still winter? No, I reminded myself, putting down an anchor: It’s April. It’s spring.

The next day, as I left the house wearing my heavy coat (still, in April) as protection from the continuing cold, grumbling to myself about spring’s late arrival this year, something in the yard caught my attention. I stood and looked at our garden, really seeing it for the first time in what felt like weeks. I could see that the grass is growing again, the trees are budding, and color has returned to the landscape.

Oh, it’s really not winter anymore, I thought. These cold, wet days so late in the year are spring. This is what spring is.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Zooming in

Last week at this time, Montreal was in the throes of a destructive ice storm that left much of the city without power, and devastated the city’s trees. Yesterday it was 22 degrees C. here, and it felt like everyone was sitting out in the sun, blinking with amazement. I had coffee with my friend K. at a favorite café (Café Parma, on the north-western edge of the Jean-Talon market), and we could hardly believe we were sitting outdoors, wearing only light sweaters — and sunglasses, because the light was so bright. We may have more snow, we all know that’s entirely possible, but we also know it won’t last.

Yesterday was Seamus Heaney’s birthday; he would have been 84. I miss him. Here’s a small section close to the end of his poem “Station Island,” where he talks about meeting a blind stranger who gives him advice in a voice “as definite as a steel nib’s downstroke”– earlier this person has grasped his hand as he disembarks, but the poet cannot be certain “whether to guide or to be guided.”

Beth Adams, Departures and Arrivals

Day Three.

Tired or fatigued? They’re not the same.
Tired, I decide, watching flowers
forced by sudden heat into blooms.

Day Four.

The rhododendron buds new leaves.
Scilla & grape hyacinth bloom
intensely blue through rotting leaves.

PF Anderson, A WEEK OF SILENCE #NaPoWriMo

In his final weeks we spoke often on the phone. Early last month, Jim asked me, as he often did, “How’s the poetry going?” I told him I was taking part in a performance called “The Poetry of Unknown Things” at Teignmouth Festival on the last day of March.

That’s interesting, said Jim, what are the unknown things?
The biggest unknown is death, I said.
This led to a long conversation.
Death is the next big thing, said Jim. I’m all right with that. I don’t mind dying. I’m not afraid. There is no fear.

Then he asked if I would write a poem for him, and I said I would try. I tried and tried, but nothing seemed right. Then something came when I woke in the night a couple of weeks later. Something not at all in my usual style. I didn’t realise at first that this was the poem for Jim. I emailed it, and one of his sons read it to him. I shall read it at a Humanist ceremony next week. And we shall dance an old dance called Nonesuch.

Ama Bolton, Dancing in the Dark with Jim

Why do I remember a time when ideas and objects were freely shared? Is this age inserting lies into my past? Scrabbling around online I’m reminded of Amsterdam’s free bike sharing, communes, the Diggers, free festivals and squatting. But I’m also made aware of the changed emphasis given to the word sharing and its digital meaning. It’s this, like the dawn chorus, that wakes me up. 

Perhaps I should linger in the state of mind where utopias are suspended like gardens and lost cities still have their gold. But news of hedge funds making such enormous profits out of food, as a direct result of war, has me wondering why we’re not talking about this more – the people behind them, the ideas driving them, the fundamental assumption that everything we used to think of as communally owned is up for grabs by people who have money to invest.

Jackie Wills, Common ownership and hedge funds again

For me, most of my book publications came from presses with open reading periods (Ghost Road, Black Lawrence), or nudging my way into established relationships with presses who had published smaller pieces of work by querying if they wanted to see more (Dusie, Sundress) Once, miraculously by invitation and the serendipity of being at the end of a project (Noctuary). But those opportunities are less frequent now, more competitive, and they may cost you a lot in submission fees and elbow grease. As I delved into self-publishing the last couple of years, I don’t know, however, if I would have been as successful at it without having had those experiences with other publishers beforehand. To have learned how to market books and myself. To get to understand how things work, but also the perspective to see that they are not the ONLY way.   

But I will say again, there are so many ways of being a writer. For existing as a writer in the world. Some of them even make some money Ask any slam poet who moves a good number of books and makes money touring. Or Rupi Kaur and other famous Insta poets.  Ask the fiction writers who do very brisk sales on self-published multi-volume novels in just about every genre. The cool thing about doing zine fests is how many really good writers you meet DIY-ing it. The audiences for these, even if the money is not there, is often far greater than even the Iowa and Ivy-pedigreed writers who win book contests. 

Perhaps the better question should be more “Who gets to be a certain KIND of writer?”  The answer is obviously skewed toward white, upper-middle or wealthy class people with Harvard degrees. Not all obviously. I know a few poets winning contests whose backgrounds are far more modest., but they are the exceptions rather than the rule. I also know Harvard or Iowa-degreed poets who are awesome and would have succeeded even without the degree gilding the path. I also know lots of poets with stunning books still trying to find a publisher I worry never will. Mostly I’ve learned that there are actually infinite ways of being a writer and finding an audience and enjoying the work you do, and thankfully, much more equitable and open ones than you will find behind the book contest system and all its nonsense. So if the system is broken, find a new system. 

Kristy Bowen, who gets to be a writer?

As far as the press’s finances, I recouped all production costs and actually earned a profit of $30. This profit is added to the overall surplus prior to this round of sales – along with a few unexpected sales in January (more on this below) — leaving the press with a total surplus of $565. This will be held onto as a cushion to offset future purchases of ink, supplies, and any possible emergencies (e.g. printer breaks down).

All this means that, So far, the press’s model has proven successful. I was able to publish and pay two other writers, as well as allocate money for donation, and still do a bit better than breaking even. Put differently: my approach to allows me to part with 75% of all income and still not go into deficit. This is very encouraging to me and puts me in a good position as I gear up for the next round of books.

R. M. Haines, Dead Mall Summary & Receipts for Spring 2023

The exchange between Don Paterson and Gboyega Odubanjo in the new Poetry Review is a welcome, necessary, and much overdue intervention in the unsettled and unsettling world of UK poetry community dynamics. Having barely stepped into that world, I stepped back out of it again a couple of years ago, finding that, mediated as it is by digital platforms, it was too disorienting a place to feel entirely comfortable. It was a dangerous world in which to take the chances I felt gave poetry life, and all too easy to get blocked, unfollowed, or whatever. And now it has started to feel as though cracks which had already become chasms, have become oceans of open water.

In fact, it might not be particularly useful to talk about a poetry community at all, given that its members claim nothing in common but Poetry itself, and Poetry, as Paterson and Odubanjo touch on, has by no means a single unified definition or means of assessing excellence. Perhaps ‘poetry community’ is itself an oxymoron; or at least, maybe speaking of cracks or divisions in the poetry community is little more than stating the obvious.

Chris Edgoose, Generations, speaking

It’s April and poetry friends near and far are scrambling to post their daily poems. I admire their efforts, I really do, as I have jumped into this marathon before. Fill a month, many months, a year even with poems. The end result has always offered a plethora of writing to revise, edit, move into the publishing world.

In the little galaxy of my high school Creative Writing class, my students last week engaged in several “Poem in Your Pocket” activities listed out by the Academy of American Poets. After a weekend, they returned to class Monday to report out on what they tried. Many called, texted, or even emailed their poems to friends and family members. Some folded their poems into origami cranes to test their seaworthiness. Others filmed their reading efforts from porches and other outdoor spots. A few poems landed on the community bulletin board at Sea Mart, our grocery store with a parking lot that extends into the ocean and where most of town takes their sunset photos to include our local volcano, Mt. Edgecumbe, or L’ux as it’s named in Lingít Aaní. There’s nothing better than taking poetry out of its expected setting (book, classroom). Taking it for a walk and seeing where it might land you.

Kersten Christianson, It’s National Poetry Month, Peeps!

For a couple of weeks I’ve been wrestling with this collection. Is it good, is it very good, or am I attracted to it because each poem has a moment that makes me stop and hold an image or a phrase? This is not so much a review as an elusive, fluid personal reaction.

Some books – poetry, novels, whatever – are like that, aren’t they. You pick something out and keep coming back to it. In the end it doesn’t matter if you like the whole thing or not.

Bob Mee, FLIGHTLESS BIRD by ROSEMARIE CORLETT

The now doesn’t end, and neither, it turns out, does the sealant, which, unlike the masking tape, is not within my control. At the end of the bath, it keeps coming. The white worm grows from the end of the nozzle: now. And now again. And now. And yes, still coming. Now. A concentration of the present, focussed, and unattached. I can’t do anything about it, but wipe the end of the nozzle, then watch as the now re-emerges time and again. Like my Sunday, it flows and curls, dangles and spirals. 

Liz Lefroy, I Seal the Now

Intensifying the walled-off, world-askew feeling: I’ve long been looking forward to attending the New Orleans Poetry Festival this weekend. Chris was going to come with me, since it’s at the beginning of our spring break, and I’d booked a sweet one-bedroom cabin near Atchafalaya Wildlife Refuge for a couple of nights after. Obviously I had to cancel it all, but my addled Covid brain kept looking for workarounds: Saturday symptoms, by CDC rules, means your isolation ends Thursday night, followed by 5 more days of masking, right? So if I recovered fast and was testing negative by Thursday, I could fly out on Friday as long as I kept a good mask on? Well, technically, but not ethically (or aesthetically, maybe–I do have a wild-haired hermit thing going on). I came to my senses, all of which I’ve retained so far, and I’m continuing the snow-globe life, although I just took my first short walk. Slow steps for a body that’s mostly better but still tired. After all, the four-week sprint of our triple-time May term is just ahead. With 9 contact hours per week for a 3-credit class, it takes no prisoners.

Revised spring break plans: read some new poetry books. Plan a little outing next weekend to celebrate signing my Tupelo Press contract yesterday for Mycocosmic (all good, although I was interested to see a clause about collaborating with them on book promotion–nothing I don’t do already, I’d just never seen that before). Get my head together for the last big push of the academic year.

Lesley Wheeler, Incantations from the snow globe

The striking cover of Welcome to Britain: An Anthology of Poems and Short Fiction is Gil Mualem-Doron’s New Union Flag which re-imagines the Union Jack. The anthology manifests the hope that through the power of poetry and creative writing, we can cultivate empathy and envision and bring about a more just world.

Congratulations to the other contributors: emerging and established writers from around the world. Huge thanks to Editor Ambrose Musiyiwa of CivicLeicester. Three of my poems were chosen: Going bananas, an Abecedarian poem about Brexit, In Blighty, a Golden Shovel poem, and Britain which appears below.

Fokkina McDonnell, Welcome to Britain

Are there stories we need, but don’t want? Are there stories we need to break off from the source and finish on our own?

Or is watching/reading part of a story that moves you this much like observing a painting with a corner of the canvas hidden? Impolite? Disrespectful to the individual artist?

It is all individual. Stanislavsky said that generality is the enemy of all art. So where is the fine line of specificity? No one watches the actors and knows all the actor’s work.

I wrote that last sentence twice. Changed it again. No one “sees” all of the actor’s work is debatable, I guess.

It is the invisible stitch of poetry that holds everything together. The backside of the tapestry. Robert Bly talked about it, and so did Aristotle.

Sometimes when I have seen something that really, really moves me, I want to share the space of savoring but say absolutely nothing. I know that the invisible stitch is an individual kind of knowledge. And if you tug at it, it might unravel. Shhh.

Ren Powell, Resisting Structure

How can I see it
if I can’t hear it,
the old monk asked.

He was talking
about poetry.

Tom Montag, THREE OLD MONK POEMS (446)

By my tedious manual count, a total of 1461 books have been reviewed on Sphinx, many of them by more than person, the equivalent of over 2,000 pamphlets that were received by Helena Nelson, repackaged and sent back out to her loyal band of reviewers. 2,000 batches of stamps to be paid for. Umpteen treks to the post office. 2,000 reviews that were edited by her (to the huge benefit of the reviewers themselves, whose prose style and critical approach to poetry were often transformed via this process). 2,000 posts that were formatted, uploaded and optimised for search engines.

What’s more, for many poets, the review of their pamphlet on Sphinx was the only critical response they’d ever receive. That’s a hugely generous gift in anyone’s language. Looking back at the archive, there are a fair few poets who have sadly died in the intervening years, though their reviews on Sphinx remain. As a record of pamphlet poetry in the U.K., it’s irreplaceable.

And now, of course, Sphinx is coming to an end. Helena Nelson has given so much to poets over the years via HappenStance Press itself and via Sphinx Reviews, in both cases to the detriment of her own writing, but even this labour of love must inevitably be finite.

Matthew Stewart, A celebration of Sphinx Reviews (2006-2023)

You are starting to understand
how it can happen that someone
wakes one morning, looks around,
decides to start culling things

from shelves: duplicates of dented
pans, an extra half-dozen plates, winter
coats worn the last time, years ago,
when snow fell from the sky.

Luisa A. Igloria, Material Life

I feel like, this week, I grew two inches, like my back just became straighter, knowing that I am entering into this arena as an author. There will be tough times ahead, and no book is guaranteed to sell well or do well or be read, but I feel that each step along this journey has been a small win for me, a woman in my forties from a working class background, a woman who never quite felt she fit in anywhere, except with animals and in nature. And that, really, is what the book is about. I don’t want to say too much right now, I’ll save that for when we get nearer the date of publication, but like with Spelt, one of the things I wanted to explore with this project was what writing about nature and landscape and most importantly, belonging, might look like from a less ‘observed’ and more ‘lived in’ experience. The book is about how landscape informs that sense of belonging, how we look to the landscape as an archive of lives lived, lives lost. It is structured around an extinct Palaeolithic lake in North Yorkshire. I’ve spent so much time outside, walking, reflecting, it’s been a real pleasure to research.

There’s a long way to go until this book is on a shelf in a shop, but right now I am sitting in my little ex council house, in my scruffy little office, feeling like I have found a way to exist in the world as myself, without needing to change anything. And it doesn’t matter what happens in the future, no one can ever take this moment away from me.

Wendy Pratt, The Ghost Lake

Now I’m reading Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan, with a hand-made bookmark from a friend who understands my relentless book-acquisition habits. Her clever bookmarks for members of our book club show what would be on our t-shirts! Mine says, “One does not stop buying books because there is no more shelf space.” So true. But at least my book buying is affordable (ongoing library used book sale) and often includes book donating at the end! 

My kids were just here, doing another round of getting rid of stuff (recycling, donating, or tossing games, puzzles, clothes, shoes, memorabilia, past school/art work), and they almost sold a loft bed contraption with bookshelves in it that would have disrupted my world! Fortunately, I have a little time…

During their stay, I stopped writing & posting my chalkboard poems. But (by getting up earlier than my kids) I kept writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month. As the poems continue to roll out, the rejections continue to dribble in. Likewise, the weather–a glorious week of warmth and sunshine while they were here, and now a return to chilly, wet weather with dribbling rain. Up so early to take our son to the airport, and now sadness will descend.

Kathleen Kirk, Books & Bookmarks

There are ways that [Russell] Edson’s odd narratives, populated with fragments and layerings of scenes and characters, feel akin to musings, constructed as narrative accumulations across the structure of the prose poem. And yet, there are times I wonder how these are “prose poems” instead of being called, perhaps, “postcard fictions” or “flash fictions.” It would appear that an important element of Edson’s form is the way the narrratives turn between sentences: his sentences accumulate, but don’t necessarily form a straight line. There are elements of the surreal, but Edson is no surrealist; instead, he seems a realist who blurs and layers his statements up against the impossible. I might not be able to hear a particular music through Edson’s lines, but there certainly is a patterning; a layering, of image and idea, of narrative overlay, offering moments of introspection as the poems throughout the collection become larger, more complex. As well, Edson’s poems seem to favour the ellipses, offering multiple openings but offering no straightforward conclusions, easy or otherwise. Not a surrealist, but a poet who offers occasional deflections of narrative. Even a deflection is an acknowledgment of the real, as a shape drawn around an absence.

rob mclennan, Little Mr. Prose Poem: Selected Poems of Russell Edson, ed. Craig Morgan Teicher

Because of time, I left my bones outside my body. The future requires no bones. Birds: hollow bones. Me: hollow body. I squeeze through the present and into what hasn’t happened yet. I leave the present behind but bring the past. Tinnitus of the insides, a ringing bell. Hard not to imagine the ears as the plumage of caves. A bird flying from the east, a bird flying from the west, each down the tunnel of an east or west ear, meeting inside. This is the present, more or less as the Venerable Bede wrote about sparrows.

Gary Barwin, SPARROW and birds at Cootes Paradise

Time is tensile here. Yellow and undulating.
The past tells stories that become clouds. Your shadow

falls on solid stone, stretching across dark landings,
becoming water. Thirst remembers its beginning, the

primal heat. So much can die, unslaked, untended:
words and want and worlds that could have been.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Interlude (34)

I tried to sit and write last weekend.I tried free-writing. There may have been a kernel of a sliver of an inkling of a sniff of an idea in there, but it’s unlikely.

I’m consoling myself with the not writing by reading this sentence I saw in Jeremy Noel-Tod’s newsletter, Some Flowers Soon.

“I think good real living is more important than spreading yourself on paper”.

That article on the newsletter was about the writer, Lynette Roberts. A new name to me, but one I will follow up on. Once I’m done with the good real living, or at least once I’ve worked out what that is.

Finally, some articles that may help trigger some writing ideas for you.
1. Have we finally worked out how to talk to whales?
2. The man who ate an aeroplane
3. The above came from this list of weird stories found on wikipedia
4. Google Street View, but for the moon

Mat Riches, Cigarettes and linkahol

I have spent large chunks of the last three days reading this book, and researching both Ukraine and Serhiy Zhadan. He is, as Bob Holman writes in the foreword,

a “Rock-Star poet,” “poet laureate of Eastern Ukraine,” Ukraine’s “most famous counterculture writer,” as labeled by the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the London Review of Books.

In addition to being a poet, novelist, essayist, and front man for the punk band Zhadan and the Dogs, Zhadan is also  a 2022 recipient of the German Peace Prize:

Zhadan, who’s been doing poetry readings in a Kharkiv bomb shelter has said, quite rightly, that, “A person cannot live only with war. It is very important for them to hear a word, to be able to sing along, to be able to express a certain emotion.” But aside from reckoning with the human cost of Russian aggression (which began in 2014) in his poetry and fiction, Zhadan has also been organizing humanitarian aid in Kharkiv, doing everything he can to see his community through this awful war. (Jonny Diamond, Lithub)

I became aware of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when it broke into American television, a little over a year ago. These poems are from earlier, 2001-2015, and I worried that I should work harder to pick up a more recent book. (On order, by the way). But what I found is that What We Live For, What We Die For has forced me to see that the Russo-Ukrainian conflict is much older than western television coverage suggests. Centuries old.  These poems are immediate and raw. “a Canterbury Tales of Ukrainian common people” (Bob Holman).

Bethany Reid, Serhiy Zhadan, What We Live For, What We Die For

“Moon Jellyfish Can Barely Swim” looks at what it might take to survive in what may seem like a hostile world. It’s not just about nature but also human survival, survival of a minority language (Welsh) in the UK, the measures women take to survive and why watching and waiting is not the answer. Jellyfish have already survived 500 million years and may be inadvertently getting human help to continue because they are making come-backs in areas of overfishing and pollution. Moon jellyfish are carried by currents rather than swimming so literally have to go with the flow.

Emma Lee, “Moon Jellyfish Can Barely Swim” Ness Owen (Parthian Books) – book review

Erase the Patriarchy: An Anthology of Erasure Poetry edited by Isobel O’Hare is a powerful anthology of poetry that uses the act of erasure to engage and argue with existing texts written by men. I loved seeing the variety of diverse voices and seeing how each one interacts with their selected text, using the medium of their erasure to enhance the message of their poem. I also appreciated reading each accompanying artist statement by the authors, explaining their process.

Andrea Blythe, Culture Consumption: February and March 2023

Show them your secret 7 0’clock face
Letting in sound but
strangling words
Parsing the needed from the not-so
Holding time in folded fists & fog

Charlotte Hamrick, Delicate Peel

Thanks to Interstellar Flight Press and T.D. Walker for doing this thoughtful interview, “Covid, Science Fiction, and the Poetry of Survival” about my new book, Flare, Corona. It’s always nice to interview with someone who asks such interesting questions. I hope you enjoy it! […]

I have been trying to also write poems and submit this National Poetry Month, but as you can see, it’s been mostly readings and writer’s group visits and planning and promotion and scheduling doctor and dentists in between events. Oh well! It’s my first book in six years, so I need to give it my attention and energy for a little while. In PR for Poets, I talk about the dangers of burning out on doing promotional stuff, but right now it’s all still mostly the fun stuff and a lot of it feels new, because things have changed since the last time I had a book out. New publisher, new social media things, a different climate for books, plus coming out of three plague years makes everything seems more anxiety-provoking (hoping me and my parents stay well for their visit!)

Jeannine Hall Gailey, A New Interview with Interstellar Flight Press, Taking Advantage of Sunshine and Cherry Trees, a Redmond Reading on Thursday, Parents Flying In, and a Writer’s Digest Conference Presentation on Saturday!

Aside from the album’s blank spaces for photos, there were also blank text boxes for descriptions beneath. After experimenting with different possibilities, I decided to fill them just with single words. With these I aimed to be poetically suggestive more than descriptive. Almost all that now appear in the book evoke abstract human qualities, or understandings of the world that are almost timeless.

Marie Craven, Book of Roses

Wonder is no straightforward feeling, as its etymology suggests: from the Old English wundor, thought to be a cognate with the German wunde or wound. The noun form means a surpassing, opening, or blow, a breach of the mind’s faculties, while the verb formmeansto demonstrate a state of admiration or astonishment, or to search for knowledge, understanding, or meaning.[2] “The verb wonder,” writes Daniel Fusch, “indicates an emotional response to a marvelous incident; the noun wonder indicates both the name for that response and the marvelous incident that provoked it…That is, at the sight of a wonder, we wonder; such are the beautiful complications of the English language.”[3]

From this “beautiful complication” arises wonder’s generative challenge for writers: to capture both the wonder-inducing event and the act of wondering itself without foregoing the feelings of admiration and confusion, that sensation of being “breached,” that wonder invites.

Maya C. Popa, Wonder Wednesday

who walks without shoes
between home and the moon

whose blood is a garden of knives

Grant Hackett [no title]

How do I want to proceed? How do I want to blossom and flourish? Like the exuberance of my geranium’s exclamation of pink? The words that pop into my head this week coach me to be “elegant” and to retain my “enthusiasm.” I feel a bit like the geranium in my kitchen that looked fairly worn out most of the winter but is now emerging, NBD, flowering, NBD. […]

As I was writing this, someone posted this poem by Jennifer Chang which is amazing, and includes the line:

“I flower and don’t apologize.”

And maybe that’s also the energy that is required right now.

Shawna Lemay, On Cultivating an Elegant Enthusiasm

there’s a white cat
where the daffodils flowered
sunny afternoon

Jim Young [no title]

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 12

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 or subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader.

This week saw the 20th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, as well as the spring equinox and World Poetry Day. Somewhat to my surprise, the former didn’t get much explicit attention in the poetry blogs, but the outbreak of war was the impetus for Phoenicia Publishing founder/editor Beth Adams to start her blog the Cassandra Pages—I think the longest-running literary blog I follow. And the war was certainly also an impetus for me and many of my fellow bloggers back in 2003, so it’s an anniversary with some consequence here. Instead this week I saw a lot of what Rachel Dacus calls a “heading-into-spring burst of vitality.” Enjoy!

NB: There will be no digest next Sunday. I know, I know, it’s Poetry Month, but I need to see the ocean. When the digest returns, it will probably be on a weekday; I haven’t decided which one.


The pristine snow,
abandoned, sinks —

a sooty skin.

Broken objects
rise up. An arm, 
stairs, cardboard
boxes shocked
by fetid air,

my head 

pushes from the
mud […]

Jill Pearlman, Flux, March

It’s World Poetry Day, and tonight I will be going to a Josephine Hart Poetry Hour event at the British Library, about WB Yeats. 

By my reckoning, Yeats has been in my life for about 30 years. I was a young teenager, as with so many of the artistic influences which ran into my bloodstream and stayed there forever. I was thinking tonight that the records I listened to between about 12-16 are part of who I am — they are me — and the records I listened to between about 17-22 are time machines, which is actually something quite different. Yeats is part of who I am and thus, part of what led me first from Canada and then to Ireland and then to London. And certainly to being a poet, as far as it goes. (A small thing, but mine own.) 

The poem that came to mind tonight, in another year of global turmoil, was Yeats’s ‘The Stare’s Nest By My Window’, part of the sequence ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’. It weaves together the extreme focus on the personal, the immediate and the close-by, with the broader crises and concerns which put the poet in that place of absolute focus in the first place. It grasps at what can be seen and held, and also hoped for, amidst profound uncertainty. This is, in varying degrees, the story of the world in recent years (and in less recent years). And it was written a little over a century ago.

Clarissa Aykroyd, World Poetry Day: ‘The Stare’s Nest By My Window’ by WB Yeats

This week on my local Nextdoor, someone wrote about a man at a busy intersection who, for the second day in a row, was walking around naked from the waist down. Lengthy threads–about obscenity laws (or lack of them), police responses (or lack of them), mentally ill support services (or lack of them), penalties (or lack of them)–ensued. In the midst of one thread, a woman shared that she wants to kill herself. Four people responded to the woman, but more than 30 (I stopped counting) continued yammering on at each other about laws, police, services, et cetera et cetera ad infinitum ad nauseum.

There’s more than one way to be naked in the street. Most people aren’t going to stop their cars to help. I closed my laptop and cleaned my oven, which made me think of Sylvia Plath. We don’t do what we can’t.

Last week I got a rejection that was so encouraging it almost felt like an acceptance: “We admired your essay, but we’re going to have to pass this time. “Resistance” reached the final round of our decision-making process. We would love to read more of your work, and we hope you will submit to XXX in the future.”

It’s the only writing I’ve submitted anywhere in the last year. Speaking of not doing what we can’t. It was a micro-essay about mass shootings. And ice skating.

I want to write about that class. I want to write about these people–us people–who gather in virtual rooms at the end of days that look ordinary to everyone else and unzip our normalcy suits to let the alien life we carry inside us breathe a little freely for a few hours. I don’t know how to write about that, any more than I know how to help the half-naked man or the woman who wondered if she should burn herself up in the house her grandmother and mother once lived in.

Rita Ott Ramstad, The week that was

I’ve forgotten to count the atmospheric rivers that have gushed across the San Francisco Bay Area, but the incredible deluge seems to have sparked a lot of literary ideas for me. When the 50 mph winds are bending trees sideways and sinkholes are appearing in the roads, it’s a subtle hint that you have nowhere better to go than your writing desk. I’ve cradled my laptop many of these dark, rainy mornings. I’m feeling a low rumble of energy, the heading-into-spring burst of vitality that soon will pop leaves out of the soil and bare branches.

Rachel Dacus, Creating Characters in Springtime

Today this blog celebrates its twentieth anniversary. I almost forgot, because I was focused on it being the first day of spring: an event we’re eagerly anticipating up here but about which there’s been precious little evidence, other than the maple sap running, and brighter, longer days. However, I’ll post these grape hyacinths in the hope that we’ll be seeing real ones — in about a month.

The craziness of living in, and enduring, such a northern climate may be matched by the craziness of having blogged here for twenty years. Or perhaps I’m just stubborn. Social media was supposed to be the death of blogging, and it did do-in most of the blogs that started when mine did. Other platforms were touted as the next best thing, but I think most bloggers just got fatigued. Keeping up a blog, trying not to repeat yourself, and finding something personal to say is hard enough over years and years, but when the readers and commenters start to go away, it’s even harder to remember why you began it in the first place.

But I do remember: I was a journal writer and determined letter-writer, with a well-established practice, and blogging fit me to a T, not only because it satisfied those same urges, but because it also added the possibility of a visual component. The latter, of course, became the raison d’être for Instagram, and I have loved being part of a community of artists and photographers there. But for those who want to write regularly and seriously, nothing has really worked as well as blogs, and for someone like me who’s a visual artist as well, and wants to own her own website rather than be data-harvested at every click of the mouse and keyboard, blogging has continued to be the best choice. I guess stubborn perseverance has just kept me at it, because first of all I write and make a record of my art for myself — I’d do this anyway — but how much better it is to share it with you, communicate with you, and get to know each other.

The doubts I was having about blogging a few years ago have mostly disappeared. It’s clear to me that this is where I belong, and that it works for me.

Beth Adams, Cassandra at Twenty

I ran into one of my blog readers last night in person at the theatre. What a joy, and I am so touched! He said he has read some books based on my blog accounts, and he also enjoys my chalkboard poems. This just warms my heart! And I needed warming up, as it’s been cold and gloomy for a few days, but yesterday the sun came out, and there was a clear sky with stars and a fingernail moon last night!

Kathleen Kirk, Hello Beautiful

It’s been a weird week here in Seattle, with the first days of spring bringing bright blue skies, 60-degree weather and cherry blossoms, and ending with surprise snow and an equally surprising bobcat visit.

Today I have two videos for you—one of a bobcat walking by my back door, and one from my offsite reading at AWP with BOA at the Seattle Library. I’m not an expert at YouTube yet, so forgive me for any problems. I even (at my little brother’s urging) finally made myself a channel, so you can like and follow me there, and you’ll get a mix of readings plus bobcats. And silliness.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, A Weird First Week of Spring – Starting with Bright Blue Skies and Blossoms and Ending with Snow and a Bobcat Visit, A Video from my AWP Offsite Reading and Last Picture

I wandered over to Facebook, where I saw a post by Daisy Fried, who introduced her students to Robert Hayden’s “Middle Passage.”  Along with reading the poem, they listened to this podcast that contains a discussion of the poem–great stuff!  After the podcast, I read this article that talks about the history of how this poem has been received by larger communities (the poetry community, the black community, new generations of activists).

Eventually, I shifted to seminary writing.  I like to think that my seminary writing was deeper and richer because I began my morning with poetry.  I know that my life is richer each day when I begin my day with poetry.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Beginning My Day with Poetry

Late last night someone sent me a wonderful goat video. I wanted to read a poem about a goat, but the only one I could think of was “Song” by Brigit Pegeen Kelly, and I wasn’t in the mood for that.

I started thinking about the perennial conversation E. and I have about art. He doesn’t use the term with a capital A, ever. He sees art as a form of escapism, not as a portal to a shared experience about what it is to be human. He doesn’t want to spend his evenings looking at the hard things. He says he gets enough of hard things. And isn’t that true of all of us.

And I can respect that. Though I find it inexplicable why we would have such differing attitudes about beauty and awe. Such differing approaches to acknowledging what it is to be human.

But then, I have seen his whole body express awe while overlooking valleys from mountain tops. Maybe that is enough for him. Everything. You can die on the mountainside. At any point of the journey. He doesn’t put it into words, or squeeze it into symbols. He has this, and maybe it is enough?

I would talk to him about this. Ask him. But I don’t think he wants to think about it. It just is and doesn’t need to be teased apart and put together again. If I brought it up, I think he’d just suggest a hike.

I like watching goats. Their pronking moves me emotionally in ways that I can’t keep up with physically or even intellectually. I envy them their in-the-moment joy. At least that’s what it looks like. But I will admit that there is something about their eyes. The gut-hooked association to Christian symbolism that I carry with me from childhood. The dangerous wildness.

So for me, the pronking kids will always have the darkness of Kelly’s “Song”.

Because this all this is true. And I am still learning to hold the paradox lightly and enjoy the flow.

Ren Powell, The Hard Things

Hard to believe it was over ten years ago that I first stumbled on (or rather out of) The Betsey Trotwood pub in London’s Clerkenwell with my long-suffering willing-to-be-taken-to-poetry-readings friend Lucy.  It’s certainly a stalwart of the poetry scene.

A week or so ago I was there to hear readings from students on the Poetry School Writing Poetry MA. Friends and fellow Hastings Stanza members Judith and Oenone are both on the course – Judith about to complete her final year, Oenone her first. They both gave fine readings, as did many others, and the whole event was a huge love-in for the tutors Glyn Maxwell and Tammy Yoseloff.

I do love the atmosphere at ‘The Betsey’ – an achetypical Victorian London pub with an upstairs function, these days entirely smoke-free of course, but just a few decades ago it would have been eye-stingingly fuggy. (It was pointed out to me however that the room was not accessible. This is of course a problem with all the old pubs – they just weren’t built with accessibility in mind. I’m not sure what the answer is.)

The pub used to be called The Butcher’s Arms apparently, and perhaps the renaming (taking the name of a character in Dickens’s David Copperfield) was symbolic of its friendliness to the poor poets and writers of Owd Lahndon Tahn. Many a book launch happens there. In fact, the latest edition of Finished Creatures launches there on Tuesday 4th April. Do come if you can.

Robin Houghton, Poetry at the Betsey

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to party in the city with a hot young lit mag, you might enjoy Bindu Bansinath’s Dispatch From The Drift’s Latest Party. Writes Bansinath, “Their parties have become a media frenzy of their own, providing endless Twitter fodder…but a friend of mine described the whole evening best when she said, ‘They’re a gathering of nerds who want to drink and shit-talk The New Yorker.’”

[…]

Finally, in response to the overwhelming enthusiasm to his article, Rattle Editor Tim Green has begun a list of lit mags that have updated their guidelines from “unpublished work only” to “uncurated work only.” You can view the list here. We hope to continue to see it grow!

Becky Tuch, Lit Mags to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right!

Stanza by stanza, line by line, word by word, comma by comma, a good editor enables a poet to understand their own method, makes them question and/or justify their choices, helps them spot their own weaknesses, encourages them to raise their game a notch. Such close editing places a draining demand on the person who does it, requiring a high level of engagement. It takes so much out of the editor that they often struggle to sustain their own writing at the same time. And this sacrifice is another reason why editing is generous.

Helena Nelson at HappenStance Press is the editor I know best, and her example is the point of departure for this post. Few publishers work as closely with their poets. What’s more, her graft on others’ behalf is definitely detrimental to her own terrific poetry. I’d suggest that U.K. Poetry could do with a few more Nells, though she’s a one-off. In fact, you could do far worse than get hold of her latest top-notch collection, Pearls, which hasn’t received the attention that it so richly deserves. It’s available to purchase here.

Matthew Stewart, A celebration of poetry editors

I saw an interesting twitter discussion the other day about what font to use when submitting writing to journals/presses. In my undergrad classes, the poet professor I most admire would say Times New Roman was really the only professional font to use, if you want to be taken seriously (which of course my 19 year old self did!).

There’s some common sense here–Comic Sans is obviously wrong, as is Typewriter font. I feel like the font should not distract from the actual writing (and those two examples do).

The font in question in the discussion was Garamond, which is the font most commonly used for published books–the idea being that if you submit your poems in Garamond, they LOOK like they should be published.

Renee Emerson, would a poem in any other font smell as sweet?

Think of a safe place, they said in mindfulness class. Think of a compassionate friend, one who is wise and supportive. I became safe in the red chair by the fire, covered by a blanket knit by my grandmother. Friends, grandparents, spiritual figures, mentors—who would offer compassion, energy, illumination. A huge letter A, tall as a ten-year-old, Times New Roman, black, sat down in the chair on the other side of the fire. Anything is possible, it said. Did light shine like wings around it as if it were a medieval saint—“outer glow” in Photoshop? No, it was crisp as if letterpressed into air. Anything is possible, it repeated and I understood that this A was the beginning, that language meant that I could explore, that it opened the world to possibility as if I could see the bones under the flesh of the world.

Gary Barwin, A by Fire

Recently I’ve  been reading SuperInfinite, Katherine Rundell’s excellent biography of John Donne, and this in turn has led me to revisit Donne’s poetry. I recall vividly the thrill of discovery when I first read him as a teenager, delighting in his clever conceits and his command of metre, rhyme and form, as I sought to understand his meanings.

This is what excites us as readers and learners – coming across something new that stimulates our intellectual curiosity, challenges our perceptions but also appeals, at some deep level, to our imaginations and our being. We can experience this sense of wonder and delight not only through literature, but also through music, mathematics, art, sport, gardening, or even through intriguing blends of different forms.

Lori Wike’s Jump Search, a recent release from Penteract Press, is just such a novel blend of two different forms. A jump search, Wike explains in the Introduction, ‘is a new type of puzzle in which a word is concealed within a maze grid of letters and numbers. It is a synthesis of a word search and a number maze’. 

Marian Christie, Review: Jump Search by Lori Wike

That was the time I went as a dominatrix.
I wore my jodhpurs, riding boots,
carried a whip. I had my Cleopatra eyes,
and black bra under a side-less top.

Rebecca, my boss, had dyed her bob orange.
Tony, always modest, in dinner jacket,
bow tie, trainers, and baseball cap.
Black lace gloves for the HR woman in the wheelchair.

Fokkina McDonnell, Abolition

For a while now, Brooklyn poet Jordan Davis has been producing chapbook-length volumes of selected poems, one of the latest is by Brooklyn-based American poet Nada Gordon, her The Swing of Things (Subpress, 2022). This is the first of Gordon’s works I’ve encountered, so I’m unaware of the larger scope or scale of her work, so this “remix” is a curious introduction, and one reminiscent of how Phil Hall reworked selected scraps to assemble his own critical “selected poem,” Guthrie Clothing: The Poetry of Phil Hall, a Selected Collage (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2015) [see my write-up on such here]. The chapbook-length poem “The Swing of Things” is structured through untitled sections (as well as an array of photographs, some of which suggest their own collage-works), short bursts that exist across each page; some of which group, or even cluster, allowing for its own kind of collage-work possibility. Her visuals and text both suggest the familiar but one that is twisted, turned and shaped into what is unerringly new, and some of which is just enough to unsettle, question or even simply wonder. Gordon’s poems hold a delightful heft, subtle in its play and dark corners, writing from both the shadow and the sudden light.

rob mclennan, Ongoing notes: late March, 2023: Amanda Earl + Nada Gordon

A few weeks ago, I visited Lee Martin’s creative nonfiction MFA workshop at The Ohio State University to talk about “Ghost Story,” which they’d read for class, and we talked about the amount of poetry in the prose, both at the sentence level and the structure level. For example, I used white space to slow down the pacing as I do in poems, here employing short paragraphs—sometimes only a single sentence—and section dividers. White space acts as literal “breathing room” on the page, regardless of genre, so these are spaces where the reader is invited to pause and reflect before moving on.

I also wanted to work lyrical and imagistic repetition into the piece, as I like to do with poems. In the opening paragraph, the laundry floated….the dishes floated….I floated” feels to me like a litany. There is also anaphora—a poetic technique in which successive phrases or lines begin with the same words—in the words “no idea” repeated, and in the three spoiler alerts. Ghostlike images carry through the piece as well—images of transparency, invisibility, helplessness. The chains in section one return in section four.

I shared with Lee and his students that “Ghost Story” also appears in my forthcoming memoir, You Could Make This Place Beautiful, though not as a single piece. I have broken it into its smaller sections (where the asterisks are in the original essay) and threaded them through the book, and I’ve added a new final section. This is something I also do in my poetry collections: I like to spread a series of poems over the course of a book rather than compartmentalizing them in one section. These then work to pattern the collection and create multiple moments of recognition for the reader.

Maggie Smith, Behind-the-Scenes Look: “Ghost Story”

After Sunday, when frost is forecast, the hardy annual herbs – chervil, parsley, dill – will go into the garden, as well as annual flowers for cutting. And then the real adventure will start, as I sow new perennial herbs. My aim is to get the overall structure of the garden in place this year, and try to attract as many pollinators and butterflies as I can, but I know I am already distracted by the thoughts of vegetables I can sneak into the gaps.

In the house there is the same sense of burgeoning chaos. Editing slipped a bit during StAnza, but I’m almost finished one book, and getting started on three more. There will be a LIVE launch for The Well of the Moon – among many others which came out in lockdown, at a Red Squirrel Press showcase in April – watch out for more about this next week – and the Ceasing Never website went live. There are three articles up now, and it has attracted a lot of interest, and some very favourable comments. The collective includes eleven exciting poets, so there should be a lot to read and think about over the next few months.

Elizabeth Rimmer, The Second Year in the Garden

Betty Drevniok was “a major early influence of the shape of haiku” in English Canada by making space for a community to grow. How did she get to haiku before haiku was a thing in Canada? Terry Ann Carter related in “A History of Haiku in Canada” that Drevniok moved from sumi-e to haiku in the 1960s. 

In 1977, Betty Drevniok, George Swede, and Eric Amann founded the Haiku Society of Canada. Rod Wilmot recalls several Haiku Canada weekends in the 1980s hosted at her wooded cottages in Combermere in Northern Ontario. From 1979-82 she was President of the Society.

Michael Dudley remembers her as “an exceptionally kind, considerate being, who generously shared her ideas and insights by conversation, correspondence, presentation, and publication”.  […]

In her haiku primer, Aware, Drevniok said, “Be aware of things around you. Let those things reach out and touch you.”

Janick Beaulieu in her history of ‘Haiku Women Pioneers from Sea to Sea‘ says this book Aware: A Haiku Primer is Drevniok’s best legacy. You can read Janick’s essay and Drevniok’s 108-page book Aware as a digital book at the Haiku Foundation Digital Library. It was a book that led to a eureka by  Jane Reichhold.

Pearl Pirie, Betty Drevniok

Lola Ridge’s life was, in many ways, a tale of her times. Born Rose Emily Ridge in Dolphin’s Barn in Dublin, she and her mother emigrated to New Zealand as a child after the death of her father. She acquired a stepfather with a taste for Shakespeare and drink, married in her early 20s, lost a child, had a child, started publishing poetry in local newspapers and magazines. When she was 30, her marriage broke up and she moved with her son to Australia, where she studied art and submitted a collection of poems, Verses, to a local publisher AG Stephens, literary editor of the Sydney Bulletin in which much of her Australian work appeared, in 1905. The book never appeared.

In 1907, after the death of her mother, Ridge sailed to San Francisco with her son. She left him in an orphanage there and moved to New York, where she became Lola, knocked 10 years off her age, and immersed herself in the literary and anarcho-socialist life of the city that was to be her home for the rest of her life. […]

The Ghetto and Other Poems shows that Ridge had, in her new home in New York, absorbed the lessons of Whitman, Imagism and other avant garde poetry movements that she came across in the small magazines of the day, and forged her own distinctive voice from these influences. The title sequence, which opens the book, is an exploration of the everyday life of the poet and her neighbours in the Bowery district of New York.

Billy Mills, To the Many: Collected Early Works, Lola Ridge

If you delete every email that begins I Hope You Are Well And Having A Lovely Week So Far
If you play Masters Of War through amplifiers outside a government building
If you stand in the street and wave a plain piece of paper
If you sit on a bench in a park and throw paper planes at a cardboard cut-out of the King
If you drink coffee for too long in the red cafe
If you write for too long in the blue cafe
If you glue yourself to the past, chain yourself to the future
If you wear solid well-dubbined walking boots to bed and buy a dog
If you repeat the story of fourteen workers killed by an avalanche of potatoes
If you are caught singing the old song I Shall Be Released
If you enjoy silence, your own company, books on Pond Life and Freshwater Fishes
If you like sitting beneath trees and listening to rain

They will stamp your file with the words Specific Threat
They will stamp your file with the words Guilty Of Malicious Disobedience
They will accuse you of stealing thoughts from the needy
They will force you to download a self-care app and accept a free gift of a plastic penguin
They will accuse you of illegal use of the senses
They will accuse you of sending ice and light out of the country

Of talking to the girl who sells bracelets in the street
Of not wanting to get up in the morning
Of memorising the poetry of a prisoner of conscience
Of taking a public footpath to a secret mountain and eating a bun from a Tupperware tub
Of swimming in a sewage-infested sea dressed as a clown

Your sentence will never be revealed

There will be no right of appeal

You will die of unnatural causes

Bob Mee, NO RIGHT OF APPEAL

In the past two weeks, I’ve read two contemporary poetry collections that I didn’t, er…love…or perhaps what I mean is I did not respond to them the way I enjoy responding to poems (and no, I will not be naming titles, though I will be giving these books away). While that is a let-down of sorts, I also started reading naturalist Marcia Bonta‘s Appalachian Autumn–which I do love. The book takes an environmental-diary approach that I have enjoyed in other naturalist writers’ work and which, no doubt, I relate to partly because I am also a near-daily diarist of my own backyard; Bonta has much to teach me, because she has a naturalist’s education and long experience. This is one of four Appalachian Seasons books she’s authored, and maybe I should have started with Spring, since that equinox has just passed. I found myself interested in the story this book tells of her family’s legal struggles with local lumbermen and absentee landlords, however. It’s an experience with which, sadly, my beloveds and I are familiar.

And I also began reading a book of poetry I have found exceptionally compelling–Rebecca Elson’s A Responsibility to Awe. Perhaps more on that in a future post. So books continue to enrich my life. I hope that is always the case, but I’ve seen how changes in human neuroplasticity can affect even the most bookish among us. More reason never to take the joys of reading for granted–and to keep my library card current.

Ann E. Michael, Bookish decisions

This week has been a good work week. I’m back into my writing routine. In fact I have upgraded my routine to include a pre work early morning walk. I think the bit of sunshine we’ve had of late has done me good. Like a flower I’m turning my face to Spring. I’m up at six for a brisk walk, then into the office for an hour of writing, then breakfast, a slow dog walk with the elderly dog, then back to the desk until lunch. After lunch – another couple of hours at my desk, then I finish early to read. At five I end my day with another slow walk with the elderly dog. I’ve decided to incorporate reading into my work day, rather than trying to fit it in around other jobs. It’s too important to be crammed in. It feels like luxury, like a hobby, like something I certainly should NOT be doing in work hours, but the reality is that I need to keep up with poetry collections in order to run decent poetry workshops, writing challenges and courses (see below for the lates writing challenge). I need to find books for the book club too, and I think of reading as a kind of ‘CPD’ – Continued Professional Development – something that I remember from my days as a microbiologist – the importance of keeping up to date with new research, new developments in the field.

Wendy Pratt, Come Write the Watery World With Me

Finishing the Phaedrus. Finally, I have a definition of dialectic, a word that has bedeviled me since college. (Probably because I first met it in Marx and Hegel, who both put it to strenuous and unaccustomed work.) For Plato, it’s the art of collection and division: “seeing together things that are scattered about everywhere and collecting them into one kind,” on the one hand, and being “able to cut up each kind according to its species along its natural joints, and try not to splinter any part, as a bad butcher might do,” on the other. Note that this is not seen as imposing categories or distinctions, but as recognizing them. (Phaedrus 265d)

274c & following, is Socrates’ denunciation of depending on the written word: reading encourages you to think you know things, when you don’t; relying on texts leads to a feeble memory; writing fails to fit the message to its audience; texts are frozen and can’t answer questions. Writing is an amusement and an aide-memoire – not serious philosophy.

And now, on to the Parmenides.

If it didn’t mean wishing away the parable of the cave, I might wish Plato had never written The Republic: such an ugly book, full of Socrates at his worst: it put me off Plato, and in fact philosophy, for decades. I’m glad that I have lived long enough to meet this Socrates who prays to Pan by the riverside: asking for his daily bread, and to be made beautiful inside. A different man entirely.

Dale Favier, Dialectic

What should I call it? What should I call
the reading of the last word of the poem and the
inability to go back to the beginning, to go anywhere

because that devastating silence that follows, is the poem.
And that is the reading, that being rooted in the debris
for as long as it takes for the universe to stop shuddering?

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Part 39

This poem was originally conceived as a response to my frustration at how having cancer had impacted on my life (spoiler alert – it ended up somewhere quite different!) Specifically, at how having a melanoma skin cancer in 2018 meant that I could no longer think about being out in the sunshine, of having the warmth of sunlight on my skin, without immediately feeling anxiety – did I have sun screen on, where’s my hat, cross the road to walk in shadow and so on.

What I was mourning here was the loss of a sense of spontaneity and freedom to bask in lightness. The poem became a meditation on how writing enables us to place ourselves in spaces and states of being that may no longer be possible in everyday life – where facts have no consequence and instead ‘all is shadowless velocity’ where I am ‘lit up, let loose’. I liked the sense that with each letter written on the page one can transport the ‘matter’ of myself to experience new or lost sensations, emotions and places.

In the repetition of ‘I can write myself’ I also played with the idea of ‘right-ing’ myself through this process – I’m very interested in writing for wellbeing. Following my second cancer diagnosis a year after my first – this time with breast cancer in 2019 – I won Arts Council funding for a residency at Macmillan’s Horizon Centre in Brighton, devising and delivering 16 poetry workshops for people affected by cancer.  I saw not just through my own experience but through running these workshops the power of poetry to support health and wellbeing. 

So in this poem I wanted to echo the sense of ‘writing oneself’ and its connection with ‘right-ing’ oneself, both mentally but also physically because I talk about the ‘lost nodes, radiated breast, sleeved right arm’ being parts of a ‘new entirety’ that is balanced and restored through a new way of being in the world.

Drop-in by Niki Strange (Nigel Kent)

Even the whales were invited

to the inauguration of the machine.

One of them said, I am tired of sorrowing

with my own voice, with my own blue heart

wanting to beach on the strand. I am tired

of making recordings that no one translates

with any accuracy, or at the very least into

flowers.

Luisa A. Igloria, Deus Ex Machina

Poetry and Music have been documented as being helpful for elderly people, including those living with dementia, the after effects of a stroke, and even physical disability. Often it is the familiar poems learned by heart at school that has the most noticeable effect. I have read several times for Northwich Stroke Club, and seen these effects for myself: memories suddenly become vivid, audience reciting as I read, smiles and animation, or the closing of eyes and relaxation from lulling words.

This world poetry day (21 March), I was invited to read at a private care home, where the residents have a poetry club to share favourite poems. In a two hour slot (with a tea break in the middle), I read them some of my favourite poems, and they contributed a few of theirs. Only two people were brave enough to read, but both read beautifully. In the second half, I read them a few of my own poems, choosing ones that I felt might resonate with them but avoiding anything too sad. Not everyone stayed till the end, which was fine. It was a relaxed and chatty session, and we all sat round in a circle together, so it was very friendly. […]

I worry for today’s generation of school students, and the generation before them, that they will have no loved poems to take forward into their old age. The way poetry is taught in some schools these days, and secondary schools are the most guilty, takes the pleasure out of the poem. Schoolchildren are told that they can’t understand poetry, without the teacher ‘translating’ for them; that poetry is hard and full of secret meanings that need to be decoded. This is a dishonest and wrong approach. Rather than forcing pupils to make heavy dictated annotations, they should be encouraged to ‘feel’ the poem first, not simply label the parts as if it were an engine or a dissected animal. Colleagues were always amazed that my classes got such great results ‘despite’ my allowing them to interpret the poem for themselves, using the skill set I had given them. Poems belong to the reader, and don’t need mediation. Allowing the pupils to ‘own’ the poem helps them understand on a deeper level what that poem is doing and how it is doing it. This is how I taught poetry myself in my 16 years in secondary school, and stint in FE prior to that.

Angela Topping, The Power of Poetry

At seven, I couldn’t close my ohs.
Amazement sloshed out of me;
each ache spilled a constellation.
Winter nights, I etched snow angels
and lay back in their wings to drink the sky,
but every time my heart rushed up
and I’d hurl helpless towards stars.

Kristen McHenry, At Seven

I didn’t get to write a post last week (like that matters) as I was knackered after a long weekend in Norfolk. I went back to see my friend John Rance. John is the dad of my two closest friends, but I have always thought of him as a friend too. He’s always treated me the same way- certainly since we’ve all be old enough to buy him a pint…(I jest, mostly). John has been ill since a series of strokes starting back in September last year, and it was made clear to his family a couple of weeks ago that he wasn’t going to recover—despite there having been some positive signs at the start of the year.

I’m glad I went and spoke with John and said my goodbyes, as the message I was dreading came on Tuesday afternoon to say that John had passed away. It had been utterly devastating to to see a man that had been so full of life reduced to the shell he was in the Norfolk and Norwich hospital. John had lived so many lives as a parent to five children, husband to two wives (not at the same time), travelling across Europe as a young man, living in New Zealand while in the army, working as a salesman, a landlord for a working man’s club, a pub, becoming the artist he’d always wanted to be in later life. He was the first to help start an occasion and often the last to leave, the first to say something wise, the first to see the silly side of something, an inveterate creator of myths and legends (apparently West Ham won us the World Cup). His laugh filled a room, his determination to play jazz sometimes cleared it. A friend of mine recently wrote that John introduced him to so much in the way of art, music and film that he could never fully say how grateful he was, and that seems a fair assessment. And also nowhere near enough to describe the man. John’s art hangs in my kitchen. John’s light and shadow (he’d appreciate the art of that, I hope) will hang over my life forever.

If it was devastating to see him reduced in life, then it was a billion times worse to get that call on Tuesday. I was at work at time, and the moment the message landed I gathered my things and set off for home. The world of media research seemed exactly trivial after that.

I stood on the platform in a daze and decided to blot things out with a podcast—music didn’t seem right at the time, and I played the latest Planet Poetry episode. It featured an interview with Robert Hamberger. Robert is a poet I knew of, but hadn’t yet explored his work, so I listened with interest as he talked about his life, his work, his work within form and how it’s less of a straitjacket and more of a way of finding freedom to let the poem say what it wants to say. I nodded along (inwardly, making a loose mental note to finally push the button on buying Robert’s books…and knowing I would, eventually, but probably not straight away). I think he’d read a poem before this, but then he read a poem called ‘Moments’ and I came close to utterly disintegrating on the Circle line to Victoria station.

Mat Riches, Altering the colour of words

Phone, shut up about the news.
War in Ukraine, assault on trans rights,

a perp walk and its possibilities —
even the very Facebook where people

will find this poem: none of them help me.
Alert me to pay a different attention.

Listen: the red-winged blackbirds are back.
Forsythia blooms across the muddy lawn.

Rachel Barenblat, Notice

Maybe it’s not such a bad thing not to have anything named after you. There’s a quiet beauty to wandering this life, one’s name kept only to themselves and those closest to them.

Sometimes when it’s stormy, I offer my name to a random raindrop falling from the sky.

I say it quick before the drop crashes to earth and rushes off with all the others.

Rich Ferguson, No things are named after me

So today, I think about time and projects and seizing the day. Today, I make blueberry muffins from a box mix and drink coffee and sort through print jobs I picked up earlier in the week like these great little collage posties soon to be in the shop. I think about the next book, collapsologies, and its overall concept and visual ideas for covers and such.  Yesterday, I scanned some analog artwork I’ve had in mind since the beginning that’s been sitting on my shelves for over three years, basically since the book was conceived during the strange summer of lockdown, though the poems took a little longer to finish. I’ve been working digitally entirely lately, which always feels more polished, so it’s always strange to look at paper pieces cobbled together from stacks of vintage magazines. Their imperfections.  Glue spots and ragged paper. But then again, the greater limitations of working with what you have vs. what you can find and manipulate are two very different kinds of creating sometimes.  Sort of like a game with defined pieces vs. a scavenger hunt.

So that book needs to be finalized in April or May, and maybe, just maybe, will be ready for the world in June or July. Meanwhile, I am closing in on the end of the short series of poems about houses I’ve been working on.  They are still very rough and need some serious clean-up time after I’m done, but at the moment, I am liking them very much.  I have found over time that my relationship to my own work is fewer highs and lows and more of an even keel.  I feel like I am writing better than ever, but I also feel like people care less and less. Or less than before. Which is of course, a folly to judge oneself by, and is totally my own fault at spending too much time on social media platforms, whose exodus and algorithms are always affecting internet attention spans.  The danger of embedding your creative life in something where everyone is jostling for space, which is true of the publishing world and less true on the internet, but still kind of works the same. 

So I try not to think too much about [it] and go on endlessly appreciating the people who I know are interested in reading my work. Or maybe reading it and I don’t even know it. And more that I should just look to satisfy myself anyway, to make sure I am happy with what I am putting out there in the world. To take pleasure in the experience of writing and its rewards and maybe a few little connections it makes with other people in this short amount of time I, or anyone, is plodding along on this planet. 

Kristy Bowen, notes & things | 3/26/2023

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, 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 or subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader.

This week, there’s even more of a focus on books than usual—March 2 was World Books Day. From harbingers of spring to the borders beyond breath, it’s a very full edition of the digest. Enjoy.


The days are lengthening. Harbingers of spring
pierce through resistant soil; spikes of daffodils

and early tulips mingle, tight buds sprinkle
thin syringa stems. A few oak leaves linger,

crisp-curled and dead, rasping in the flowerbed –
but death is a stranger now. Pale hellebore

blushes shyly, fern fronds prepare to unfurl.

Marian Christie, February’s Garden

I dug out an old book over the weekend – Speak To Me, Swedish-language Women Poets, edited & translated by Lennart and Sonja Bruce, published in New York in 1989. Every so often I flick through this one but in previous readings I hadn’t noticed a comment by the Swedish poet Madeleine Gustafsson. She says: “..It is poetry that discovers/ scrutinizes/ explains me.”

It set me thinking. How far does poetry explain the poet, to themselves or to others? Sure, I walk about my life, talking to people (here and there…) and am, when the mood takes, or circumstances dictate, social enough. I get unnecessarily animated while watching football, like to watch Test Match cricket, enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren, talk to my hens and pigs, spend time pottering about doing jobs in our woods, pass through the world, I suppose. Life is full.

Is this what I am? Or does my poetry suggest something more that stays hidden through the habits and rituals of the days?

Bob Mee, ‘MY POETRY EXPLAINS ME’

March is here – my favorite month of the year. (And my birthday month.) Although the Spring equinox is on the 20th, the climate here in New Orleans says Spring is here now. I have garden planning and planting fever so I’ve been consulting my notes from last year as to what new things I want to experiment with in my planting. […]

I have a tiny essay in Still: The Journal called Moon Sick, which was reprinted from my Substack post in December. Many thanks to the wonderful editors at Still for believing this little piece was worthy of their wonderful journal.

It’s Saturday afternoon now and I’m going out into the backyard to cut off dead banana tree leaves and trim back my HUGE in ground Asparagus setaceus fern. And, of course, check on the Sweet Peas.

Charlotte Hamrick, I’m in Love with March

A fellow poet introduced me to the American poet Ted Kooser, now in his early 80s. His style is accomplished, yet extremely simple. My current bedtime reading is his poetry collection Winter Morning Walks: one hundred postcards to Jim Harrison (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2001).

In the late 90s Kooser developed cancer. He gave up his insurance job and writing. When he began to write again, it was to paste daily poems on postcards he sent to his friend and fellow writer Jim Harrison. In the preface, Kooser tells us ‘I began to take a two-mile walk each morning. I’d been told by my radiation oncologist to stay out of the sun for a year because of skin sensitivity, so I exercised before dawn, hiking the isolated country roads near where I live.’ These country roads are in Nebraska.

The poems cover a period from 9 November until 20 March. In the poems Kooser doesn’t directly talk about the illness. He does so through metaphor. All the poems include a brief description of the weather. The clear and precise observation gives them a haiku quality.

Fokkina McDonnell, Books, books, books…

This posthumous collection is a work of impressive artistry and depth.

It was written under the shadow of a terminal diagnosis of laryngeal cancer and after the removal of Satyamurti’s voice box and part of her tongue. Some poems refer to these things. The way in which they do so reflects one of the qualities that make Satyamurti’s writing so attractive. Whatever may have been the case for her as a person, as poet she approaches her situation in a way virtually purged of ego.

We see this in ‘Small Change’. It opens:

This must be the room of last resort,
this half-lit passage under the dripping bridge
where, on the only route to the Underground,
you pass four, sometimes more, rough sleepers
strung out at intervals against the wall,

the same, day after day, week after week.

The tone is masterly. The language is unemotive, almost prosaically plain, suggesting a pedantic concern for factual accuracy by the pausing over ‘four, sometimes more’. And yet from the first line the scene has the compelling resonance of symbolism and myth. And line 6 seems to ache with empathy, not through emotive language but because the effect of its repetitions is heightened by the stanza break. What’s involved is a very skilful use of poetic technique to make facts seem to speak for themselves. They’re made to feel immediately present (‘This must be’) and the reader is drawn into a direct confrontation with the sleepers (‘you pass’). Keeping herself out of the picture, the poet makes us face the horror without distraction. And what we see is how for these rough sleepers the real has taken on the extremity of myth.

Edmund Prestwich, Carole Satyamurti, The Hopeful Hat – review

Far Field is the final part of a trilogy Jim Carruth has been working on for the last twenty-five years, and forms a magnificent culmination to what feels, for more than one reason, like a life’s work. Like its predecessors, Black Cart and Bale Fire and the standalone poetic novel Killochries, it deals with farming life in rural Renfrewshire, but this volume is more personal than the others. It focuses on his own family life, the family farm, the handing on of skills, property, and tradition. […]

In the final section, Stepping Stones, we move out to the wider community, to the landscape, to memory, and reflections of the future, and the book closes with Planting Aspen Saplings, father handing on the tradition and the responsibility to son. Aspen is an endangered species, but an important one to the Scottish landscape:

You tell me of the tree’s offer
To gall midges, birds, hare, deer

The importance of relationships
The interconnectedness of everything

They do not thrive in shade, need light
And space to grow.

Planting aspen saplings,
Son and father.Planting Aspen Saplings

The echoes of Seamus Heaney I find in these poems do not feel derivative, but establish a connection between two poets aware of the influence of landscape and farming on their work, but each with their own different and unique perspective on it. An Irish/Scottish tradition which enriches us all.

Elizabeth Rimmer, Far Field by Jim Carruth

Last week, a long train ride and poor internet connection gave me the chance to re-read two recent Forward Prizes anthologies, properly paying attention to each poem rather than flicking through the pages which is what I’d previously done. In particular, from the 2020 book, I loved ‘Partition’ a prose poem about the complexities of identity by Fatimah Asghar from her book If They Come for Us (Corsair, 2019) which begins

you’re kashmiri until they burn your home. take your orchards. stake a different flag. until no one remembers the road that brings you back. you’re indian until they draw a border through punjab. until the british captains spit paki as they sip your chai, add so much foam you can’t taste home.

I also loved the poem ‘Argument of Situations’ by Shangyang Fang which you can hear the poet reading here (amazing what you can find on the internet!). The poem begins

I was thinking, while making love, ‘this is beautiful’ – this
fine craftsmanship of his skin, the texture of wintry river.
I pinched him, three inches above his coccyx, so that he knew
I was still here, still in an argument with Fan Kuan’s
inkwash painting, where an old man, a white-gowned literatus,
dissolves into the landscape as a plastic bag into clouds.

I liked the fact that the two people in this poem are talking about and arguing about different interpretations of a painting. This happens so often with any kind of artistic work, sometimes these conversations take place in one person’s head (they do in mine).

Josephine Corcoran, February Update

You drop into the little terrarium world of a story or poem.
There is a talking clay dinosaur in it. You look familiar, you say.
She grunts and steps over the broccoli-tufted forest. Trust
means you can be fully here, next to a citizen of Mesozoic
time, and also exist outside the glass. All I want to do sometimes
is sleep, you sigh; or read. Every now and then, the shadows
of flying pterosaurs stretch a fleeting canopy that blots out
the sun. You’re convinced the writing residency you heard
about is here, somewhere beyond the teaspoon-sized pond
ringed with moss and breadcrumbs.

Luisa A. Igloria, Retreat

13 – David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I think knitting has influenced my process a lot in that sometimes one must unravel an ugly or misshapen or just not right thing, despite hours of work. To acknowledge that the hours of work spent weren’t wasted but a learning process toward something better, that seems very applicable to writing, drafting, editing, and letting go of the ugly or misshapen things we write. I also love drawing and reading graphic novels, but I think because I don’t feel like my expertise is in this area there is more room to play and learn and once again, make something ugly or misshapen. I mentioned her before, but Lynda Barry is a major inspiration to me and her work helps me to embrace the weird and unknown.

14 – What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I think returning to teachers and peers who taught me gets me really excited to make things and teach. I’ve loved reading Ross Gay’s essay collections, Ellen Hagan’s fiction and novels-in-verse, Joy Priest’s poetry and essays, Nikky Finney’s poetry and ephemera, and the debut poetry collections of my dear friends like Anni Liu (Border Vista), Su Cho (The Symmetry of Fish), Kien Lam (Extinction Theory), Jan-Henry Gray (Documents), and Marianne Chan (All Heathens). I also love to return to Ai, Lucille Clifton, Aracelis Girmay, and Ruth Stone, for teaching students and myself.

rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (second series) questions with Danni Quintos

Since March is Women’s History Month, I thought I’d take some time to let readers know a few ways that the following poets have impacted my life’s journey in poetry and teaching. I’m ever grateful for their mentorship and support over the years. Please take some time read about the influence of these amazing poets and read (and buy) their work (I’ve included links to make it easier for you):

Carol Frost – Carol is first on my list. During my four years of collegiate undergraduate work in Upstate New York, Carol opened up so many opportunities for me to connect with the poetry world. Now Rollins College Professor of English and Director of Winter With the Writers, a Festival of the Literary Arts, Carol continues to write and teach and inspire. It was Carol who mentored me in my undergraduate years as both a poet and fiction writer, introducing me to Donald Justice, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, and many, many more in the late 1990s. I even visited her once at Bread Loaf, where she introduced me to one of my fiction-writer heroes, Charles Baxter. She always believed in me as a student writer, and it was through her guidance and kindness that I kept up with a writing life well after college. As far as her poems go, her imagery and syntax dazzle. Her most recent collection is Alias City (2019). Carol is an exceptional poet and teacher, says everyone in the poetry-biz, not just me.

Scot Slaby, Celebrating the Women Who Have Nurtured My Poet-Teacher Life

“Imperfect Beginnings” is an exploration of rootlessness both of refugees and adopted children. The poems ask difficult questions about security a sense of belonging when those roots are absent and whether it is actually possible to settle into or create somewhere that feels like home. Viv Fogel also touches on intergenerational trauma. She didn’t inherit her adoptive parents’ trauma but was very much aware of their experiences and how those experiences informed their behaviour towards her. The later poems look at founding a mother/daughter relationship without a role model to create one from and whether it is possible to break away from the negative patterns learnt from those who failed to provide safe environments for children to grow in.

Emma Lee, “Imperfect Beginnings” Viv Fogel (Fly on the Wall Press) – Book Review

Though Vogel’s adoptive mother was a refugee living in a new country, it is clear she had not truly escaped the Holocaust. Parts Four and Five develop the notions of escape and repair. There is a hint of what is to come in Practical un-English when the poet writes: ‘Her pain became my art and then my craft.’ The act of writing is Vogel’s way of understanding and resolving such issues. In Practical UnEnglish, though the poet does not shy away from describing her adoptive mother’s cruelty, underpinning the poem is an understanding of why she acted in this way. There is also a desire to see her in the round, to recognise her strengths and as a result, towards the end of the poem, there is even a touch of warmth towards her: ‘And yet/ she baked, her Powidltascherl and Apfelstrudel were divine.’  In this understanding there is the beginnings of forgiveness on Vogel’s part that her adoptive mother was never able to feel.

Nigel Kent, Review* of ‘Imperfect Beginnings’ by Viv Fogel

Lynne Jensen Lampe’s debut collection, Talk Smack to a Hurricane (Ice Floe Press, 2022) concerns mother-daughter relationships, mental illness, and antisemitism. Her poems appear in many journals, including THRUSH, Figure 1, and Yemassee. A finalist for the 2020 Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she lives with her husband and two dogs in mid-Missouri, where she edits academic research. Visit her at https://lynnejensenlampe.com; on Twitter @LJensenLampe; or IG @lynnejensenlampe

How do you know when a poem is finished?

It depends on the poem. In general, a poem is done when I read it aloud and feel the energy in my voice stay strong until the last word. Sometimes I can feel that in my body, other times I need to listen to a recording. Conversely, I know a poem needs work when I hear or sense a vocal weakness, a softness that doesn’t derive from the content. Places I stumble over words. The revision and just sitting with the poem can take months. A few times, though, I needed to write a quick draft in time for my critique group, think I have nothing like an actual poem, and they tell me to send it out. Or I submit a poem over and over, all of a sudden decide to change the last word, and the next journal accepts it.

Thomas Whyte, Lynne Jensen Lampe : part one

Clare Best’s new project, End of Season/Fine distagione (Frogmore Press, 2022), is a delicious portrayal of the tensions that run through life, yoking them to poetry so as to burrow down to the core of feelings.

To start with, as indicated by the title itself, there are linguistic tensions, each poem in English placed on the opposite page to its corresponding piece in Italian (written by Franca Mancinelli and John Taylor). Rather than translations, these feel like two independent texts that establish dialogues: views of Italy in English, then also in Italian but filtered through an English perspective. Languages, cultures and societies rub up against each other and generate further insight into how we view the world around us.

Matthew Stewart, Delicious tensions, Clare Best’s End of Season/Fine di stagione

One book I read recently and enjoyed immensely was Liz Berry’s The Home Child, a ‘novel in verse’, which is actually launched in two days’ time. I got hold of an early copy in order to prepare for interviewing Liz on Planet Poetry. We had a lovely chat about it yesterday, and the episode will go out some time in late March or early April.

I sometimes wonder if listeners think that Peter and I are awash with complimentary copies of poetry books thanks to all the poets we’ve interviewed. Well I’d like to crush that idea once and for all – I think this is the first book I’ve been sent from the publisher. I generally go out and buy a poet’s books, if I can’t get them in the local library.

I love public libraries and support them as much as I can. But the poetry offering is always minimal, and don’t get me started on trying to find novels by subject matter.

Robin Houghton, Been reading and about to read…

Even though I can get all the resources I need electronically, I occasionally cross the campus to the library.  I feel sorry for all those books, so neatly shelved, almost never checked out.  I do wonder how long the school (and schools across the country) will continue to dedicate themselves to the task of tending books that are never used.

I’m not talking about the censorship campaigns happening in parts of the country.  Those libraries that are being decimated have been in use.  I go to the physical library at my seminary, and I am almost always the only one in there who is not library staff.

A few weeks ago, I made this Facebook post:  “When I’m in the seminary library, I have to resist the temptation to check out the books that haven’t been checked out in awhile (that is to say, most of them)–in part to make the books feel loved, in part so that they won’t be culled, if the library is called upon to do such things.”

I love the smell of the library, even though I know I’m smelling the slow, slow crumbling of books turning to dust. […]

I’ve been sending out poetry submissions this morning, thinking about their passage in the world.  Will they find a place between covers in an old-fashioned book or periodical?  Why do I do this anyway?

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Publication and Preservation

My 4th manuscript has been a finalist/semi-finalist in about half of the very few places I’ve sent it, so I think it is pretty close to ready. The thing is, it’s about my daughter Kit, who died at six months old from a rare genetic condition and heart defect, and I am incredibly protective of this manuscript and reluctant to let it go.

I wrote it to be read–and to share her story and the story of our grief for her–at the same time, it is difficult to let that project be Completed and out into the world.

And then I have questions like “how could I ever manage a reading from this book?” (without dissolving into tearful Anne Sexton level dramatics)

I suppose that is a question for my future self to handle.

As it is, I can get in there and enjoy crafting the manuscript as a separate thing, an art, rather than the emotional ties I have to it (reading it aloud to people would be a whole nother matter).

Renee Emerson, visions and revisions

This is not an unboxing video, this is a post-unboxing video so I could be at least somewhat composed. You Could Make This Place Beautiful is here! I still can’t get over the touching secret hiding underneath the book jacket: my handwriting on the spine. I had no idea! I love it.

Thank you to my editor Julia Cheiffetz and the whole magic-making team at One Signal and Atria, who’ve been with me through Keep Moving, Goldenrod, Keep Moving: The Journal, and now this memoir. Special thanks to Jimmy Iacobelli for this miracle of a cover. I can’t get over it.

Maggie Smith, The book is here

By virtue of social media algorithms and clicks, I keep encountering some articles by a tik tokker who has been talking up “Bare Minimum Mondays” as a way to combat weekly burn-out, the Sunday scaries, and the general feelings of overwhelm [with] which most of us greet the week. It’s something other people I know have mentioned as a way to combat these things, starting off slow and then with a more productive push toward the middle of the week that winds down to Friday. […]

That same tik tokker also talks a lot in her reels about monotasking, which I guess I’ve never considered that word for it, but this makes such a difference for me. It was one of the best things about working the night shift even when I was at the library–very few interruptions and spans of time to actually get stuff done without interruptions and phone calls and e-mails coming in. […]

When I first branched off on my own, it took a while to find and establish the rhythms, but even with the press work, I find it helpful to devote each day to one aspect. Mondays are slower and more-admin days. Tuesdays are layouts and Weds are cover design. Thursdays are edits and finalization of galleys, while Fridays are website work and updates. Saturdays are usually just e-mails that require more in- depth responses and printing loads of author copies. Sundays are for shop orders & assembling books. This way I can cycle through the things that need to get done without feeling overwhelmed by so much and switching gears.

Kristy Bowen, the virtues of monotasking

The other thing to know and possibly do, which I have absolutely not done, but will perhaps increase my efforts — is to “spend three years” marketing the book that you wrote over the same or longer span. Makes sense right? I learned this at Writing Quietly and promptly forgot it. :) And the thing is, you can take these things in, modify them, use them for what works for you. I’m not going to mention my book every day for 3 years, but also, a book (or painting) is not a loaf of bread. It doesn’t go bad. Your followership changes, grows, and forgets. The book I wrote published two years ago, might now again resonate with someone.

With anything that I’ve done on the internet, especially blogging, which I’ve done for the longest period of time, I try to not “promote” myself per se. I try to ask myself, what do you have to give? What do you know or what have you seen that might be of interest? Sure yes I’ll succumb to the “please buy my X” formula from time to time. But primarily, I’d rather lure you in with whatever it is I might have that’s of interest, haha. Then we can go from there. If I can be a wee bit inspiring and then you want to look into my wares, so to speak, that’s cool. That said, sometimes we have to make things easy for people! Tell them the price, where to buy. Offer a link. We’re all busy, man! Make it as easy as possible! Don’t be shy about that part.

Shawna Lemay, Social Media for the Soul

I want to say something about ambition. A word derived from “go around,” that is, go around seeking votes or support. Which sounds a bit embarrassing to me. But why? What’s wrong with wandering around seeking support for your position? Is the shame I feel around it a female thing? Is it the prospect of the closing door? The closed?

I want to say something about desire, a word meaning coming down from the stars. Which sounds a bit silly to me. Wishing upon, and all. As if.

I want to say something about striving, which comes from battle, or strife. Which sounds unpleasant.

Something about success, a word meaning to go next to something that yields. Which is a funny thing, making success more a verb than a noun, but succeed more an appreciation of a yield than a gathering of it.

Marilyn McCabe, On the edge of town: or, Some Thoughts on Striving

Do we need

a witness for every moment? For every sigh? Is it
more worthy, a life lived in the sunlight? What name

do you have for things growing in the shade? Inside
a second-class compartment, lovers lie on opposite

berths, feigning sleep. Between them space, depth,
strangers, doubts.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Part 36

Mr. Shannon told me to put the pencil on the paper and then never look down again. Draw exactly what you see. He never explained himself. But I still believe sensitivity of the line is far more interesting than the perceived gesture. I think of Schiele and how he stripped his work of the ornamental influence of his teacher Klimt. I’m not considering Schiele’s narrative, mind you, but his lines which are a translation of sensation. Touch – with the eyes opened and closed at the same time. Much later, in college, a professor told me that the trouble with my drawings were that the parts didn’t work together to create a whole.

Maybe that was my unconscious goal. Parts are potentials and prompts and promise, the whole is as inescapable as a closed circle.

When I run, sometimes I close my eyes for dangerous seconds. I listen to the soft snap of twigs on the trail. How would one draw that? How would one translate the sensation that is simultaneously a drop in the pelvis and a rise in the chest? And a hatch-working of browns. And there is a smell in the foreground. Moss-greens, sticky translucent sweets.

That things can smell sweet may be the first order of synesthesia.

Yesterday, the air temperature barely above freezing, and a fat bumble bee attempted to fly. It sounded like death and I will argue that is synesthesia not simile.

There is pleasure in the unfocused life. There is discovery.

Ren Powell, Done with Genres

I wanted to expand on the voice and I also thought that I took too much time getting to the gist. My aim is always to be as concise as possible. I also think that too much frame around the poem detracts from its impact. You need to interrogate every word, does it really need to be present? What does it bring? Does the poem work without it? 

Paul Tobin, A TURN UP FOR THE BOOKS

Yesterday I attended a Zoom event featuring Alexandra Fössinger. There was discussion between poet and publishers with just a few poems, then a Q+A session. I think the format worked well.

She revealed that there was a significant backstory to her recent book, “Contrapasso”. Does knowing the backstory help with appreciating the poems? Not especially, but I was interested to know that she had felt the need to conceal details, and distance herself from the story (by writing in English, etc). She said she hadn’t realised that she’d concealed so much and had made an effort during rewrites to be less obscure, but she liked the idea of leaving areas that readers might get lost in. A difficult balance.

Whenever a poem is driven by intense emotion it must be hard for the poet to assess its effect on the reader. I don’t trust my evaluation of such poems that I write, and am wary of sending them away – justifiably in most cases, in retrospect. But achieving that objectivity can take years. Might as well let editors make earlier decisions.

Tim Love, Cephalopress Writers in Conversation: Alexandra Fössinger

Chalkboard poems continue. Reading continues. I read a sort of magical realism short novel, The Crane Husband, by Kelly Barnhill because the description reminded me of a poem I had written a couple years back where a woman marries a sandhill crane. This was darker than that, though the poem is also about a cryptid, the Mothman, who might actually be a sandhill crane. I love my life, but it is sometimes hard to explain to people who are not me. Let’s just say I used to live in Kearney, Nebraska, and also passed through there on a trip west during sandhill crane nesting season.

I think there was more I meant to tell you, but it’s Friday, it’s snowing, and I am already drinking wine (in hopes of a nap…have I mentioned my weird sleeping patterns during the pandemic?)

Kathleen Kirk, Real ID

The collection I finished reading yesterday is by Robert Wood Lynn, whose amazing work I found a couple of years ago through Shenandoah submissions. Since then, he won the Yale Younger Poets Prize for Mothman Apologia, a collection strongly rooted in Appalachia. It contains a series of poems from the perspective of Mothman, a West Virginia cryptid, which gives the book a weirdness that always appeals to me; I’m also moved by how it addresses the urgent subjects of poverty, drug crisis, and environmental damage. I’d call it lyric in mode, like [Cynthia] Hogue’s work, which to me means sound-driven and personal (even when the poems use persona). Especially for a first collection, it’s startlingly good. And it turns out he lives very near me, although he commutes to NYU as he completes his MFA.

Lesley Wheeler, Poetry reading (and readings: here comes AWP)

A lot of times writers don’t talk about the difficulties involved with the work of being a writer, which includes things like public speaking, publicity, attending conferences. If you have a disability—I use a cane for short distances, and a wheelchair for longer distances, which is obvious, but I also have problems swallowing, breathing, even things like vision and memory, which are less obvious. I also have an immune system deficiency that puts me at high risk for “bad outcomes” as the scholars write—with covid. I’m not ignoring any of that when I say I’m excited about AWP, because I am excited for a chance to see friends, to share my work, to meet my publishers, and all those good things.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Where I’ll Be at AWP, A Rhysling Nomination, Managing MS Symptoms and Anxiety Before Big Public Events: AWP Edition

In Minneapolis I arrived the day before the conference. I was six months pregnant and stiff and tired from the plane ride. I found a yoga studio nor far from where I was staying and inexpensive compared the east coast prices I was used to. The teacher was phenomenal. To this day it remains one of the best such classes I’ve ever taken.

In Chicago I spent over an hour in my room chatting with one of the hotel’s housekeepers. There was a hotel staff strike taking place down the street. This woman was more than eager to talk to me, and she gave me all the details of the strike and her job generally. It was an invaluable perspective to the space we were all gathering in and enjoying for the weekend.

All of this is to say, the best advice I can give anyone attending this conference is: Be okay with where you are. Don’t panic.

If you have a couple of good conversations, meet new people, get to know new magazines and/or presses, attend an interesting panel or two, then you’re doing great. If you pick up cool journals that you’ve never seen before and think you might like to submit to, then you’re just fine. If you come up with new ways to attempt to resolve a craft problem, good on ya.

Don’t worry about doing everything. Take breaks as you need to. Walk, rest, talk to people outside the literary world, stare into space.

Becky Tuch, What is AWP and how do we survive it?

I’m especially pleased to have this poem out in the wild; it’s one I intend to have in my pamphlet…and one that’s been accepted in what I think is its final form. Last week saw the long listing of another poem that should make it into the pamphlet, but I had to commit that cardinal sin of asking if they’d let me update the version they had. Thankfully, they said yes, but there’s a chance it may change (slightly) again before the pamphlet is out.

It’s always interesting to think of versions out there. I’m sure I heard it mentioned in a podcast recently (possibly Craig Finn interviewing Maggie Smith) about how interesting it is to read the mag version versus the final version of a poem. I’ve sort of stopped submitting for a while to keep the versions under wraps, and to hopefully have some back that haven’t been published before—although your move to the various mags that still have poems—either longlisted, or unreplied to yet.

Mat Riches, Toting Up The Velocities

The latest in my series of winter charcoal drawings of upstate and central New York is this one, of a pair of old trees in a field – probably apple trees, I’m thinking. They touch something in me; perhaps it’s the way they are still growing in spite of losing limbs and, in the case of one, practically its entire original trunk. Maybe it’s because they look like a pair. But it’s also because finding old trees like this feels typical of such a place, where people have been farming for a long time. Perhaps there was once a homestead nearby. I like the way these trees, with their individual personalities, stand in the foreground, set off by the indistinct woods in the little gully behind the hills; it makes me want to walk there, climb up the hill behind, see if there’s a stream.

Beth Adams, Old Apple Trees

I could have been quaint
and asked a stranger about those drooping
white blossoms, pointed leaves and slender stems,
flowers upside down, dripping like milk.

Instead I tasked my phone and asked
a stranger stranger, who gave me fifteen
fast photos of the flower before my eyes.
Snowdrops.

Jill Pearlman, Hey, Stranger Stranger

Jean Cocteau wrote that “A great literary masterpiece is simply a dictionary in disorder.” But a work of literature doesn’t use all the words of the dictionary. Is it possible that by looking at the parts of the dictionary that were not used, you could reconstruct the literary work? The work is both the words that were used and the words that were not used.

Or to put it another way, everything that Gertrude Stein’s dog doesn’t know isn’t Gertrude Stein and so by knowing what the dog doesn’t know, you could figure out who Gertrude Stein is. By knowing something about the hole, you know something about the donut. More and more, I’m figuring out who I am by figuring out who I’m not. 

It’s a kind of dead reckoning, a system of navigation that doesn’t rely on absolute position but on. figuring out where to go and where you are by measuring the distance and direction from where you’ve been. 

Who I am is both inside and outside my life. In my life. Around my life. Through my life. During. Despite. Because of. What is the apt preposition?

Gary Barwin, THREE SIDES TO EVERYTHING

Time braided into breath. Chiseled and stacked into monuments marking the span of human existence.

Time sublime, time unwind. Time a psalm, time a qualm.

All borders beyond breath, any lands we may discover in an eternity beyond us, let them be no less real because we cannot touch or name them at this time.

Time the bountiful, time bereft. Time desirable, time so desolate.

Perhaps there exists rest within breath—a majesty that dwells in the spaces between inhales and exhales.

Rich Ferguson, Breathology

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 8

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 or subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader. This week, an especially convivial edition, I think, as bloggers muse about things that tie us together—”kinscapes”, epistolary poems, sharing poems with family members, etc. Lots of changes seem to be afoot, and poets are adapting in interesting ways. Books and writing philosophies are hashed over, as usual, and poems are shared, some rare and bleeding, some thoroughly cooked. Enjoy.


When I opened Vol. 1 of the journals, I found a bookmark from Grasmere with an illustration of Grasmere church and the headstone of William and Mary Wordsworth. I love finding bookmarks in second hand books. They feel like way-markers, signposts. Someone was here before me. Someone was reading this book, someone was imagining Dorothy Wordsworth, as I would be, as Polly Atkins had when she’d written her book. All these different versions of Dorothy have existed in the minds of the people who have read her journals, and the journals have linked us, this particular book is linking me to the previous owner, and to Polly Atkin and to Dorothy herself. I imagine Dorothy now, writing the journal, the scrit-scrat of her pen, the sound of the rain outside the window and me here, now, the rain outside my window and the unknown other reader, the book marker. It is like being a part of a silent book club.

Wendy Pratt, The Forty Four Year Book Club

This current desk, now a dozen years beneath my fingertips, is entirely straightforward: black wood and solid with three sides, no drawer. I’ve slipped smaller shelving beneath for files, outgoing correspondence, comic books and other items to be close-at-hand. A plastic milk crate on its side to my left, to hold letters, postcards, scraps and other detritus. My lamp and Lego figures atop, along with a cow-shaped Holstein award retrieved from the top of my father’s desk as we dismantled the house, an award presented him in 1954, most likely as part of his 4-H club membership. A stack of trade comics underneath to the right, just by a tin garbage can I’ve had since before I can recall, set in my homestead bedroom before I landed, thus becoming one of my touchstones. It is strange, the things we decide to carry with us as we go. Sometimes we get to choose, and other times, less so.

I can’t remember the last time I cleared off this particular desk, although I might have attempted a fraction of such last year, when the new printer landed. It took a whole day, and the box of books set aside still sits where it lay. Papers and manuscripts and books and journals and chapbooks replenish like lichen, or morning glory. I marvel at the outcrop. I hack at the runners.

rob mclennan, the state of my desk

The effects of shared experience and sharing experiences are complex. We find another sort of sharing in the poem Tobi’s tales. [Marie Isabel] Matthews-Schlinzig describes the daily routines shared with a pet dog. The relationship between owner and dog is described as a ‘togetherness’. It is one of constant accommodation: ‘We walk, discovering: you stop, I stop, and/ vice versa. We dance, wait for each other.’  In the image of the dance, there is a suggestion of an accord, a harmonious, productive relationship: their routines are enlivening, vitalising: ‘each time we step out, it remakes us’, even though they experience together both the ‘wondrous’ and the ‘frightful’. In doing so the poet reminds us of the strength we can derive from sharing experiences, from being connected, from experiencing a sense of togetherness, not only with other human beings, but with animals, and even with the natural world itself.

In a world in which new technologies increasingly undermine the social fabric of society and drive us towards isolation, kinscapes reminds us of the importance of togetherness, of the fact that we are not alone, that fulfilment lies in our relationships with others and the world around us. It consists of striking contemporary poems, layered in meaning that reward re-reading. Matthews-Schlinzig is a truly impressive talent.

Nigel Kent, Review of ‘kinscapes’ by Marie Isabel Matthews-Schlinzig

In this collection, [Sarah A.] Chavez adds to her series of “Dear Carole” poems that have become their own body of work within her larger body of work (which can be found across her full-length collections Hands That Break & Scar (Sundress Publications, 2017) and All Day, Talking (dancing girl press, 2014)). The poems of like everything else we loved are elegiac epistolary poems, poems that celebrate and hold space for the grief and love the speaker in them feels for Carole, and doing so through the direct address of a letter. Yet, it’s the poetic sensibility on display in these poems — a sensibility able to honor a lost loved one in a way that is intimate as well as accessible — that marks the accomplishment and gift they are to the elegiac and epistolary traditions.

The poem from which the image above comes from, for example, is entitled “Dear Carole, Dermatologists Call the Body a ‘Trunk’,” a title that in its word choice and phrasing invites us into the realm of gossip and daily life. There’s an urgency to this address, a sense of having found something out that only one other person will understand, accompanied by the need to share it. One feels you are overhearing two kindred spirits alive together through the fact of the poem.

While the epistolary form necessarily marks it as a one-sided conversation, the voice in this and other poems in the series takes its time meditating and speaking to Carole in empathetic, blunt, and candid ways. The result is a voice whose honesty is animate and grows before the reader. In this way, poetry creates a space of connection, of relating, of inside jokes and acknowledged flaws, and ultimately of mattering.

José Angel Araguz, microreview: like everything else we loved by sarah a. chavez

At the diner, a former Bard student of mine introduces herself to D; she’s waiting tables, tells me apologetically she’s still trying to figure out what and who she is or will be. I note that she already is; is doing fine, creative, smart, a good writer, and radiant: look at you, I tell her truthfully, you’re glowing. She smiles, embarrassed and pleased: she was shut down when I had her in class, guarded and dim. Her light is strong now, she needed some time to heal: I think about that through the hikes, how we need time to heal when trauma comes, how we guard and preserve ourselves as we must and this all takes time; glaciation, melt to lake, the shaping of landscapes and mythic story that shapes the inner lives, that places landmarks for lost walkers.

JJS, Geographies

Certain regular readers of Rogue Strands have complimented me on the number of poetry blogs I manage to follow (or insinuated that I’ve got far too much time on my hands!), but I continue to make new discoveries of excellent, long-running poetry blogs that have previously slipped under my radar.

This is at once annoying and terrific. Annoying because it makes me feel useless. Terrific because each discovery provides me with the chance to devour a whole back catalogue of interesting posts.

One such case is Edmund Prestwich’s poetry blog (follow this link to read it), which is packed with in-depth reviews that get down to the nitty-gritty of books such as Hannah Lowe’s The Kids, Maurice Riordan’s Shoulder Tap and Gerard Woodward’s The Vulture, alongside nuanced analysis of poetry from the past, especially from the 20th Century. All in all, it’s a treasure trove of points of departure for poetic discussion and debate. Thoroughly recommended and it’s going straight on my Poetry Blogs List. I can only apologise for not having found it earlier…!

Matthew Stewart, Edmund Prestwich’s poetry blog

Last night my friend Kim took me out for my birthday. We lay on the floor of a local yoga studio for a sound healing. Pillows, yoga mats, gongs, maybe rain sticks, singing bowls, a thunderstorm. At some point my hands began to dance. At times I thought I might be in a science fiction movie. We had little pillowed eye masks so the sense of hearing would be enhanced. It was actually really loud, and I hope my ears survive. But I think we both got sort of healed! Feeling loose and competent today. Even got my tax organizer filled out!

I had lunch with my folks, and took them some of my poems for a mini-poetry reading afterwards. My mom has been asking about my poems, so I took a batch of recently accepted ones. (When I got home, it was time to approve a proof of one of these, making it a Random Coinciday in the blog!) They read the typescript afterwards. Mom liked them a lot. Dad fell asleep but also liked them intermittently when he woke up. “They’re very spare and mature,” he said. I sure hope so!

Kathleen Kirk, Sound Healing

My first AWP event is Thursday’s signing at the book fair at the BOA booth at 3:30 PM, which has its own little official graphic. I hope to see you there, because I’ll be running around like a madwoman the rest of the conference. I am nervous and excited about meeting my BOA publishing people for the first time, too. I hope I make a good impression! Someone asked me, has having a big publisher (well, relatively big, for poetry) changed your life as a poet? I would say, I’m working harder than usual so I can take advantage of things like better distribution and more marketing support. But I’ll know more once the book launches officially in May. I’m so nervous! […]

Made the trip downtown this week to spend some time with my little brother, where we stopped to have coffee in the lobby of the hip hotel Citizen, gave him a copy of my book and spent some time high up getting pictures on a cold windy night with the Space Needle. I realized there is still a lot of downtown I don’t explore on a regular basis (hello strip club across from a Sephora!) and that the Convention Center has been totally redone since the last AWP Seattle so I’ll have to relearn some of the layout. Also figuring out cool hotel bars/coffee shops in walking distance to the Convention Center is important. So even though we got blown around a bit (I almost fell over the wind was so strong! I felt like Mary Poppins!) it was great to traverse the streets on foot pre-AWP. Plus, my brother is always fun to hang out with, and I was so excited to share my book with him.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Countdown to AWP! Six Tips for Surviving AWP Seattle! Also, Flare, Corona’s World Tour Begins, Surprise Snow, Bird Visitors, and a Visit with my Brother

I said this out loud the other day off the cuff, in the context of taking classes/workshops, and it felt profoundly true: I’m at a stage in my writing where I don’t know what I need. I don’t know what I don’t know. This is a dangerous stage (and I do believe it’s a stage)(all the world’s a stage)(so to speak)(i.e., this too shall pass) — it invites hubris, because I feel like I know so much already, and it indicates a blindness: I can’t see my bad habits and weaknesses.

I don’t know what to engage in because I don’t know what will be most helpful because, really, I don’t know what my poems aren’t doing that they COULD be doing. (I mean, getting published, for one thing…) I just sense that I could be working at another level.

My instinct is to hold still for a while. Write on. Read away. But make no sudden moves. I feel like something needs to happen, but I don’t know what.

Marilyn McCabe, I know ain’t no sunshine; or, On Writing and Development

A Punch in the Gut of a Star / Un Cop de Puny Al Ventre d’Una Estrella is a bilingual collaborative work by the great Anne Waldman and Emma Gomis, a writer whose work is new to me. The book opens with a pair of introductory texts in which the poets demonstrate rather than explain how they arrived at the work. These introductions discuss the language in, as opposed to of, dreams and the viability of using dream and telepathy as modes of collaboration under the conditions of Covid lockdown, with special emphasis on liminal hypnagogic states.

What follows is a longish poem in alternating English and Catalan sections, with the English translated into Catalan and Catalan into English as footnotes (with some lacunae, intentional or otherwise). The languages are further disambiguated by using bold font for the Catalan and its English transpositions. […]

The result is a complex interweaving of not two but four voices, a kind of dream fugue of language with Waldman-in-English-and-Catalan and Gomis-in-Catalan-and-English expounding theme and countertheme. as when, for example, across facing pages 24 and 25 ‘poc a poc, la paraula es desfà’ (‘little by little, the word undoes itself’) is transmuted into ‘We said green we said enough’ (‘vam dir verd vam dir prou’). Both poets are pushing up against the boundaries of language, its ability to function in a radically, if temporarily, altered world, a kind of plague dreamtime.

Billy Mills, Recent Reading February 2023: A Review

Deadly nightshade gives a sense of lightness, of flying, as its
poison takes hold. The trick, they say, is to eat just enough.
I remember when the police confiscated our typewriters.
They stacked them in trucks like rescued dogs or cats.
Whose job was it to analyse what had been written?
Did they enjoy screening the imprints on the ribbons?

A scientist says a hundred species become extinct every day.
Or was it two hundred? Details stumble clumsily off in
search of a more ordered mind. On the TV an image:
beehives in a clearing in woods, a beekeeper like a ghost
in the early light. I switch over. Gary Cooper walks alone
as someone softly sings Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling.

Bob Mee, HIGH WINDOW

What I remember: Inside the library and all the way to the auditorium, security guards and tall men in suits lined the corridors. At a poetry reading? The evening’s playbill, handed to us by beaming librarians, announced that the Irish Consul was going to be introducing Boland. The entire event had the feel of an official state dinner—but without the food and drink.

What we didn’t know at the time was that Boland’s father had been Ireland’s first Ambassador to Great Britain, and later, to the United Nations. That Eavan Boland’s classmate was Mary Robinson, President of Ireland. Perhaps this had something to do with the formality (and sellout crowd) of the event or perhaps Bostonians simply adore anything Irish. In either case, I remember feeling every bit the gate crasher.

However, none of this mattered when Eavan Boland took the stage. Actually, she commanded the stage from her military posture to her no nonsense approach to her poems. I believe she might have referred to herself in the third person. It was as if Eavan Boland was performing a lecture on Eavan Boland.

Susan Rich, Eavan Boland with Mixed Emotions

When I’m in a bad mood I wallow, I snipe, I growl, I see subterfuge where there is none. I say things I don’t mean and I know it when I say it but sometimes I can’t stop myself. Often, this happens on dreary days, overcast days, humid hot or humid wet days. Occasionally, I will be in a writing mood on days that are grey and that seems to keep the meanness in check. It’s only lately, after all these decades, that I realize I might have a kind of Seasonal Affective Disorder, except my moods change with weather instead of the season, so it’s Daily Weather Affective Disorder? Oh, I don’t have extreme highs and extreme lows. I do have some control over my emotions. I can, for instance, stop myself from posting a snarky tweet, or not say out loud what I’m thinking during a disagreement. But other times I just want to release control. I want to feel my feelings. The trick is not to hurt someone else when I do. […]

I went through a period of time, though, where I drank too much. I was aware enough at the time to know why I was drinking but I chose to do it anyway. It was an escape. I never drank to the point of losing all control or blacking out but alcohol affected my moods and my thought processes in a big way. I began to realize I was sick of it. Sick of how I felt when I drank, sick of feeling wiped out, foggy-headed, and just sad. So I quit. I haven’t had any alcohol now for years and I don’t miss it at all.

We are always and forever a work in progress, aren’t we? We are never done learning and growing and adapting. We are in a life-long school of ourselves.

Charlotte Hamrick, A School of Ourselves

My long patience
has run out. The Spring slash is burning, but no voice

comes from it. A beetle makes its slow desperate way
over the moss, while the shadows of birds and clouds
fill him with distress: O brother! We understand as much.

Dale Favier, Spring Slash

One of the secrets to being creative, and to creative thought is this: (which is really no secret): the more creative you are the more creative you are. So if you do one fun and creative thing in say, photography, then when you go back to the page to write something, it somehow seems to boost your ability there to think in new ways. […]

A lot of it comes down to play, and to turning things around, to see from another angle. To shift things. To pun and put together odd things. To juxtapose. When I took the photo of the rose in the coke bottle, I’d initially planned to drink the coke and then replace it with water. But then, it seemed like it would be more fun to put the rose into the coke. And then initially I put it on top of a book of women photographers, it then seemed interesting to put it on top of the book nature morte. I took the photo one day with the bud of the rose quite closed up. The outer petals were quite muted. And then I cracked open another coke a couple of days letter when the flower had opened. This is all fine, right? I find the photos amusing, if nothing else. But what happened next was that I came up with three new ideas for the book I’m writing. Coincidence? Maybe.

Shawna Lemay, Consider the Opposite

For me, a poem tends to begin in one of three ways: (1) An image. Something I see or encounter, or from my memories, that I find arresting, or compelling. Something that isn’t literally shiny (especially since the image doesn’t have to be visual although, for me, it oftentimes is), but feels “shiny” inside my brain and continues to linger or shimmer or hold space within my mind until it becomes a kind of a question to which a poem might respond, but not necessarily answer. (2) A line, or a snippet of a line. Something that has a sense of music or propulsion, and is also language that I don’t really quite understand. Once again, this creates a question to which a poem might respond, but not necessarily answer. (3) A strange and compelling fact, usually scientific, frequently zoological, that brings me delight. From one of these starting points, I look for patterns, or connections, and I usually start to collect other images, pieces of language, or sometimes additional facts—oftentimes the more disparate on the surface the better—and I start to clink them together and see if I can make them sing.

Lee Ann Roripaugh : part five (Thomas Whyte)

This late
in life, I am still always trying to resist
words like forlorn, with their long
centuries of loss behind them, their
habit of loosening whatever they
were attached to or bound. Bound as in
bond, as in a chemistry of atoms, their
orbitals and shells able to hold only
so much until the moment of breaking.

Luisa A. Igloria, On Fission

Years ago, when I volunteered in fundraising for WHYY in Philadelphia we used the letters OoB to indicate a business which was no longer there (so don’t try to call them for a donation). Sin Fronteras Journal is now OoB, out of business.

We lost most of our volunteers over the past two years, and found no new ones who might help us transition to digital publication. We wanted to do this because hard copies are more and more expensive and frequently are not in high enough demand to pay their way. We did not succeed.

I didn’t want to make the decision by myself to shut down the magazine, which had lasted 26 years, but in the end, I am the only one here, so down it must go.

The draft of our last issue, #26, is available for viewing at http://www.sinfronterasjournal.com.

Ellen Roberts Young, Sin Fronteras Journal Closes

This is a relatively small issue, as far as lit mags go. Personally, I appreciated the size. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when reading online magazines. There is so much to take in and without being able to make notes and engage with the content in a physical way, it can overwhelm. (Maybe I’m just getting old.) At any rate, I appreciated the simple and straightforward structure of this magazine, its visual elegance, clear and easy navigability and the editorial choice to provide quality over excess material.

There is also sex! Indeed, tucked into this elegant and quiet-seeming journal that evokes the cool air and open spaces of the Pacific Northwest, there is a section for erotic content.

Becky Tuch, Let’s Discuss! Pacifica Literary Review, issue 19.1

Speaking of stirs: like many others, I appreciated Becky Tuch’s recent investigation into publishers with whom I have entanglements. When I published my first book, Heathen, with C&R, the press was owned by Ryan Van Cleave and Chad Prevost, who treated me well. After the press was sold and the new owners, Andrew Sullivan and John Gosslee, were visiting my region, they reached out, we got together for coffee, and they invited me to submit any book mss I was working on (at the time, Poetry’s Possible Worlds, so it might have been 2015 or 2016). I didn’t submit the book to C&R. It wasn’t ready yet but I also felt uneasy about the interaction, not that I was able to put my finger on why. I’m not saying you should trust my instinct or my memory, but for whatever it’s worth, a random detail that made an impression: the editors seemed incredulous when they found out I wasn’t paid for serving as an AWP board member. I was surprised that they were surprised. While board members at nonprofits get some free meals and similar perks, it’s because they’re attending meetings, getting VIPs to the event on time, etc. They’re working hard as a gift to the organization, although like other professional service, being on the AWP board can make you and your writing a notch more visible, a kind of compensation that did weigh with me. Anyway, at that point John Gosslee invited me to submit to Fjords Review, then accepted and published two poems. Now I wonder with chagrin if my name in the magazine or on the press’ backlist could have made anyone feel safer submitting–whether I helped credential businesses that have done harm.

Poetry’s Possible Worlds is in part about my father’s long cons. There have been too many liars and gaslighters in my life, so I have deep sympathy for people who get sucked in. In this case, while there are still some authors defending C&R and I have no first-hand experience of any unprofessional behavior, I’ve now heard credible stories of scams and damage. A colleague I trust and admire, Brenna Womer, is quoted in Tuch’s piece; I’d previously seen her tweet about Gosslee’s abusive behavior, and I believe her completely. I had the vague sense, in fact, that he had stepped down from mastheads in the wake of multiple #MeToo allegations, and that even Andrew Sullivan had distanced himself from his collaborator. (One of Tuch’s key findings, though, is that Sullivan sometimes goes by Andrew Ibis. Even if that didn’t make me wonder about an ominous Thoth allusion, I’d find the name-switching problematic. Authors use pen names, but how would that serve an entrepreneur seeking work as an editor and agent?)

In short, while there’s some rhetorical twistiness in Tuch’s piece–asking questions to convey reportorial skepticism, then answering them with evidence that’s more suggestive than conclusive–I find the gist persuasive and am grateful for her research. It’s sad, though, that exposés can’t put scammers out of business without hurting the scammed. Personally, I’m just fine–it was a long time ago and I have other creds. Yet C&R, even under its current leadership, has published good books, and those authors don’t deserve a press boycott. I guess that’s why I’d rather blog about all this than tweet; I keep glimpsing a star of clear wrongdoing surrounded by a nebula of mess.

Lesley Wheeler, Sprains, scams, and spells

Today’s annotation isn’t a poem but a playlist. I love making playlists, though I still slip and call them “mixes.” I was a mixtape teenager—like, actual cassette tapes—and a mix CD college student. Mixes were Gen X social currency. We made them for our friends; we made them for crushes; we made them for our exes to make them want us back. And we put an incredible amount of thought into every song, every transition, and every detail, down to the handwritten and cut-to-fit-the-case liner notes.

My first iPod had a click wheel and was the size of a toaster, and I took it everywhere. I had (and still have!) an iTunes playlist called “Writing” that was full of music I listened to while working on poems: Mojave 3, REM, Gillian Welch, Low, Wilco, Elliott Smith, The Decemberists.  

These days, I stream music on my phone when I’m on the go, and I prefer vinyl on my stereo here at home. No matter where I am, I listen to music constantly. I listen in the kitchen while cooking. I balance my phone on the edge of the bathroom sink so I can listen in the shower. I wear AirPods while walking my dog or running errands in my neighborhood. And yes, I still listen to music while writing.

I’ve heard many writers say that they can’t listen to music while they work, or at least not music with lyrics. (In which case I recommend Dirty Three, Explosions in the Sky, and Godspeed You Black Emperor! I bet Sigus Ros, while not instrumental, would also fit the bill.) It doesn’t bother me to hear someone else’s words while I’m conjuring my own. When I’m writing, the songs become part of the weather; they help set the tone for the work.

Maggie Smith, Annotated Playlist

I was listening to the singer Connie Converse on Friday, and the last song on the album was called I Have Considered The Lilies. I was struck by the line in the chorus about “handing over my pencil and pen”. I’d certainly felt like doing that a few times in the last week, but I’m glad I’ve ploughed on. I think I now have the next draft of the book ready to go. I shall be sending it off shortly.

And the song also reminded me I’d not read the latest edition of Bad Lilies. I can’t share specific poems from what feels like quite a damp and slightly biblical issue (and given Connie describes the song as coming from a biblical text at the start this makes sense), but have a read…There is plenty to enjoy.

Finally, I was struck by this article this week. It discusses the time Marianne Moore was invite to name cars…Her suggestions weren’t used, but I think I’d rather drive the Dearborn Diamante instead of the Edsel.

Mat Riches, MATGPT, Considered Lilies and poets naming cars

I had a random thought float across my brain as I was spreading a quilt over the bed:  I wish that Kathleen Norris had a new book out.  And then I wondered if maybe she did–but instead of turning the computer back on, I went to my bookshelf and pulled out Dakota:  A Spiritual Geography, the first book of hers that I read and loved. […]

Here is a quote from the book, which talks about the Dakotas both as a physical location and something larger:  “Dakota is a painful reminder of human limits, just as cities and shopping malls are attempts to deny them” (p. 2).  As I write these words, I’m thinking that the season of Lent can also be a painful reminder of human limits.  Our Lenten disciplines can be a way of helping us think about the ways that we want to avoid thinking about these limits and perhaps a way of helping us embrace these limits.

As we eat our Shrove Tuesday pancakes or our Mardi Gras King Cakes, as we indulge and/or plan for how we will avoid indulging, let us plan for our Lenten disciplines.  Or maybe discipline is not the word for our current time–we’ve had an awful lot of discipline imposed on us for the past few years.  Maybe heightened attention would be better–or here’s something I like even better:  enrichment.

Let us plan our Lenten enrichments!

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Lenten Enrichments

There is no sign of the mountains, a
heavy smog hangs over all of Kathmandu,
as if the sky has drawn a curtain. Believe, it
says. Believe what you cannot see, still is. We
rise higher in a tiny aeroplane until we are
face to face with the mightiest of them all.
Sagarmatha. Chomolungma. Those who
cannot endure the climb, come to see it
like this. There is silence in the cabin. Even
the cameras are still.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Part 35

February 26th is just another day, another year–and at this point, my mother has very little sense of time. It is likely that my mother’s life-shifts are in the past, and the next shift (there’s no escaping it) will be death; but who can tell? My mother’s ninetieth feels like a huge shift in my life as her daughter, as an adult, as a mother to grown people, and as a writer in the world. Why this is so, I can’t say. It’s certainly something I’ll be reflecting on often in the coming years, and the reflections emerge in my writing. As I work on revising the poems I’ve drafted in the past 5 years, the topics of aging, mortality, aphasia, and memory keep showing up. Things I can consider myself fortunate, perhaps, to be preoccupied with, rather than being forced into confronting a natural disaster (Pakistan, Turkey, Syria, and others) or war (Ukraine, Syria, and other regions).

Here’s part of a poem I’ve been wrestling with lately.

… –I would untangle
my mother’s mind if I could be let access to its
recesses, but those stay hidden like the life in hedge
and meadow, in the woody undergrowth,
unknowns twisted together, impenetrable. …

How fortunate for me that my mother is not far away, is well-housed and safely cared-for, and has had a long, creative, fruitful life to celebrate this weekend. Nonetheless, the grief inheres. The hardest shift? I miss the person she has been all my life until recently. And yet: here she is. Herself, more impenetrable than ever. And loved.

Ann E. Michael, Life-shifts

I stumbled recently into a strange land of videos of women, mostly in their thirties, talking about their rejection of hustle culture, which is countered by the crazy morning routines and discussions of productiveness and goals and hustling by another set of women, usually in their twenties. Like on instagram, there is a lot of workout gear and yoga and juicing. Journaling and 6AM wakeups, and reading that Atomic Habits book everyone somehow has. The thirty-somethings live in idyllic places like France or some countryside somewhere, drink a lot of tea, read many novels, are usually married or partnered, and talk about “slow” living. They may make a living off youtube ads or selling art on etsy shops. One does something with astrology for money that I don’t think I understand.

Maybe it’s a decade-of-life thing, and I’m not sure where I stand as a woman in her forties on this equation or if it matters where I stand at all. Truly, I can see both sides, but also tend to roll my eyes at people who talk about rejecting hustle who seem to be enjoying a financially stable existence that doesn’t depend on whether they hustle or not (likely family money or a working spouse). It reminded me of a recent article about a woman who was encouraged to step away from hustling but feared the ground she’d lose if she did as a writer and whether or not she’d be able to pay her rent or eat and I related so hard. There isn’t really a safety net sometimes, so all you have is hustle. I also have a similar eyeroll for discussions of minimalism, which are easy to have if you have the cushioning to replace the things you threw out if you need them later.

But also I think the hustle I’ve always done, even when working for somewhere else. There was a sense of stability (well not much) but I needed to hustle, to cram in as much as I could, do as much as I could. And in many ways this is still true. Because I don’t have that stability anymore, I hustle quite a lot to make sure I have pillars of income to keep things afloat should any of them fail. I want to keep things humming along with the press because it feels like important work, so I wind up hustling there. I need to hustle with my own writing and art because these are the things I am most passionate about and feel I should spend my time doing. It’s not about awards and publications so much as it is about putting work out and being creatively productive as an artist and writer. This is the most valuable way–the most content way–I can think of being in the world. I want it, and only parts of it even seem like work. I’m not sure that deciding all I was going to do was drink tea and read novels, tempting as that is, would make me quite as happy as making things, doing things. Maybe the key is finding balance.

Kristy Bowen, hustle and slowness

A turkey vulture glides above his head. He raises one hand

to shield his eyes, captures the image with his thumb.
Rousseau to Voltaire: “I hate you … But I hate you as a man

better fitted to love you, had you so willed.”
There’s a purple finch on the wire under the water tower,

balanced in that way birds can and humans aspire to.
He imagines the feeling of falling, or feels it, truly –

his chest tightening at the thought.
When he looks again the finch is gone.

Jason Crane, POEM: Jean-Jacques And The Finch

In the hallway just outside the preschool, pictures of past synagogue presidents. First names: Jacob, Jacob, Louis, Max, Adolph, Jacob, Adolf, Max, Moses, Adolph, Samuel, Sam, Aaron, Joe, Joseph, Moses, Leo, Adam. At a certain point, the name Adolf falls out of fashion. 

At another point, Hitler’s moustache and my grandfather’s traded places. Did they pass in the street and one jumped off the upper lip of the other? Did the Führer sneeze during a salute and my grandfather, hiding in an alley, sneezed at the exact same time and so the trade was made? Such mysteries can never be known. Eventually, my grandfather and the new moustache emigrated to South Africa. My grandfather’s original moustache hid beneath Berlin on Hitler’s lip, then was blown away with the rest of Hitler’s face as the Allies entered the city and Hitler shot Eva Braun and then himself.

The idea that a growth of hair could have a name is strange but also telling. Van Dyck, Fu Manchu, Charlie Chaplin. Did my grandfather initially adopt the look because he was emulating the Little Tramp, Oliver Hardy, a truncated Groucho Marx? Pratfalling his way out of history, somehow escaping what he knew was soon to occur?

Gary Barwin, HITLER’S MOUSTACHE, MY GRANDFATHER’S LIP

which sounds are most remembered by rain

which language speaks through seed

whose love is snow on a black woolen sleeve

Grant Hackett [no title]

The weather has not improved. No good news coming in my inbox. But still, I seem to have a new perspective on things. I feel something much smaller than ambition, but there are gears turning again, propelling me forward with a sense of identity.

I think I remember being this.

I hear buzzing from a mason wasp’s pot. It resonates in my chest. In a good way – because moving outward from here is a field-full of purple heather, and beyond that the woods where the songbirds are about to return.

Ren Powell, On the Cusp

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 7

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 or subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader. This edition features poets responding to Valentine’s Day—how can they not?!—interwoven with reflections on their own poems and appreciations of others’. This past week also saw a good example of the power of poetry blogging: Becky Tuch, former editor of The Review Review, used her Substack to expose some shady goings-on in the US po-biz, which I’ve included a link to below, along with a reaction from regular digest contributor Kristin Berkey-Abbott. Always good to see that kind of thing. At any rate, enjoy the digest.


Someone in a workshop recently wondered aloud if she wrote just to try to figure out if she exists. I sort of get and sort of don’t get what she means. I exist in my own mind. Loudly. I share a household with my husband and know we exist, sometimes irritatingly, for each other. Beyond that? Some days it does seem a bit unclear. What does Schrodinger’s cat think of it all? If he got in that box and Schrodinger didn’t know it…well…

“Less clumpy” than they’d thought, said the scientists, poetically, of the universe. Their models had predicted something more cold-butter-on-cold-bread, I guess, than what they’re finding as they map the universe. More ooze.

Marilyn McCabe, I’ve come to talk with you again; or, On Creation

It’s 6:30 PM and I confess this day has gone from euphoric joy to deep sadness. After this, the remainder of my evening plans will likely be scuttled in exchange for going to bed. I’m not tired, and I don’t expect to sleep – I just don’t have the desire to face anything else tonight. 

I confess I need to write about 5 new poems with some emphasis on night for my manuscript.

Michael Allyn Wells, Confession Tuesday – Joy and Sadness Issue

“Go to Aleppo!” my father-in-law exhorted us, on many occasions. It was his favorite among all the ancient cities, and he wanted us to see its beauty, which he described to us in detail, eyes closed, rhapsodizing. He and his two sons had gone to Damascus in 2000: a nostalgic final trip for the 90-year-old father and a bonding and learning journey for the sons, the elder of whom had been born there. My husband, the younger son by 11 years, came home and immediately wanted to us plan a trip to go back together, to both Damascus and Aleppo. And we did just that, sending our passports to the Syrian embassy for the requisite visas. But shortly before we were supposed to leave, the political situation became very unstable, and we decided — most unfortunately, in hindsight — to postpone. As we all know, our entire world, and the Middle East in particular, changed irreparably after that, so we never made it to the city Mounir had loved and which no longer exists; what he remembered will never be seen again.

Beth Adams, Aleppo

The earth
is so alive, murmuring apology
each time it takes or ruins,

each time it coughs up
rivers of mud. And so, in grief,
the woman gathers her skirts

and walks into the wood.
They speak of her as if
it was she who took

the last light from that
home; as if she could know
how to make the moon

stop pilfering the silver
in a poor box.

Luisa A. Igloria, Cloven

The first thing I’ve been thinking about is compassion and weariness and how it’s really hard to keep flexing our compassion muscles when we’re bone tired. I mean, I am. The insomnia is back. I keep thinking of my man Bruce, and his:

I get up in the evenin’
And I ain’t got nothin’ to say
I come home in the mornin’
I go to bed feelin’ the same way
I ain’t nothin’ but tired
Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself
Hey there, baby, I could use just a little help

You can’t start a fire
You can’t start a fire without a spark

When I have compassion fatigue, interestingly (at least to me), this is also when my creativity sags, too. Maybe a lot of us are weary of each other, though. That’s fair, right? It’s been a long haul through some trying times. I understand why people are tired of me.

Shawna Lemay, Creativity, Compassion, Conflict

I’ve been thinking of C. K. Williams’ poems recently, with their incredible formal inventions.  The first book I read of his was With Ignorance, published in 1977.  From its unusual shape to the poems inside, it was something new in the poetry universe.  It’s almost square, not rectangular, and the poems inside use long lines that go all the way across that wide page, with the longest turning over to the next line, and indented to indicate that. The poems themselves are long, two, three, or four pages.  But as soon as I started to read it was clear that that just as the lines weren’t prose, they also weren’t like any other long poetry lines I knew: Whitman’s and Ginsberg’s, for example.  In Williams’ poems, sentence cadences were rich and audible.  The scenes and characters were vivid.  And yet it was poetry, not prose.  It was like coming across a new plant species, or undiscovered butterfly.

Sharon Bryan, C. K. Williams

words can never capture nothing
but the space around it
bordering on nothing
shines

even when the butterfly lands
on the dog’s nose
it sleeps on

Jim Young, all about nothing

[T]his past week, I was contacted by a source (who wishes to remain anonymous). The source shared with me pages of documents, websites, testimonials from writers and social media posts, all of which put PANK Magazine into a larger and important context. I spent the week investigating, and can confirm that my source’s information checks out. I will now do my best to share these insights with you. […]

Are all the entities named above complicit in some kind of concerted scheme being orchestrated by a few powerful and well-connected individuals? No. Of course not. At The Review Review back in the day, I hosted ads for both C & R Press and Fjords Review. If no one is talking about any of this, how could anyone have any idea what is going on? 

And what is “this” exactly? Is there truly such a scheme taking place?

What really is going on?

The only way to find out is to start asking questions. Which is just what I have come here to do.

Becky Tuch, Showcase Magazine, Ephemera, C & R Press, Steel Toe Books, Fjords Review, PANK Magazine, American Poetry Journal…oh my?

In some ways, I’m very lucky.  If my poetry career never enlarges further, I’ll be fine.  I don’t have tenure decisions riding on my poetry publications.  I haven’t signed a book deal with publishers who are hoping I’ll write the same thing which brought fame and fortune before.  Trust me, if I knew what to write to bring fame and fortune, I’d have written it already, and I’d be working on that follow up.

I’m also lucky in that I’m not desperate, which means I’m less likely to fall victim to predators that are out there.  I read this piece which made me think about my younger years, and how I might have taken the bait offered by certain types of scammers.  Apparently there are people out there who buy small publishers and then use that platform to prey on writers.  I feel lucky to have avoided that mess.  It also seems like a strange kind of con.  Of course, I used to say the same thing about the real estate market.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Publication and Its Predators

I’m 46 today! (Gen X Aquarius here.) If you’d like to send a little birthday love and care, I hope you’ll consider preordering my next book, You Could Make This Place Beautiful, which will be out April 11. If you preorder now, you might just snag a signed, limited-edition print of “Bride.” I love the idea of offering perks to folks who are kind enough to buy the book ahead of time.

Self-promotion is hard, but I believe in this book and invested so much of myself in it, so yes, I want you to read it, give it as a gift, suggest it for your book club, teach it in your writing classes, request it from your local library. One of the big ideas in the memoir is betting on yourself. I am.

Maggie Smith, Behind-the-Scenes Look: “Bride”

I have it on good authority that “there ain’t no noun that can’t be verbed” so I’m valentining today. Why? Because I’ve found that waiting for a noun to drop through the letterbox is a poor way to approach love. 

The way I’m going to valentine my day is to go to work by train, and to notice all that’s beautiful and wondrous: a frosty sunrise, a conversation with a colleague who’s full of enthusiasm, the repairs to the keys ‘O’ and ‘R’ carried out on my laptop, new sheets of card. I will reflect on the many blessings of love I have in my life, one of which is for mushroom risotto which I’ll cook for myself this evening when I get back to my warm home. As I stir the onions in oil, I’ll remember the times I’ve done this on a stove each evening of the brilliant camping trips I’ve shared with my longest-serving friend. Our next adventure begins in 3 months, 13 days, 15 hours and 57 minutes’ time.

Liz Lefroy, I Valentine This Day

Every night
I tuck my teen in bed

and close his door, humming
the lullaby you used to sing.

Most kids of his generation
don’t know “A Bushel

and a Peck.” 1950:
you were glamorous,

flirting with the bugler
you would later marry.

Rachel Barenblat, Music, music, music

The title makes my student giggle. She’s transfixed by how the song’s chunka-chunka guitar and thunderous drum opening bottoms out to a hush during the verse.

As Kurt Cobain sings, I tell my student, “He was a great songwriter. A great singer.”

My student notices my use of “was” and offers a curious look.

“Sadly,” I say. “He committed suicide. I wish he were still here. He would’ve written so many more great songs.”

My student agrees, then we continue watching the video, mesmerized as Cobain intones, “Hello, hello, hello, how low…”

During this quiet part, I tell my student, “Wait for it. Things are gonna get loud.” My student’s eyes widen in anticipation.

The song’s tension continues building. “Hello, hello, hello, how low…”

Again, I tell her, “Wait for it…”

When the raucous chorus finally avalanches us, my student and I are beaming like we’ve got bells in our blood.

Rich Ferguson, Queen of the Audio Ball

As you’ll probably realise from reading this poem, it is not about the act of self-harming. It is about being friends with somebody who self-harms. I wrote it to help myself try to understand how I felt about two girls in an online poetry community I had joined. One of the girls previously had self-harmed, and the other was self-harming. I tried to be supportive, and they were mostly very cheerful girls. I remember one time though how the one who was self-harming at the time, had been absent for a day, and related the next day how she had been taken to the Emergency Room to have her cuts stitched up.

There was a great distance separating myself and these girls. I was in the UK and one of them lived in Texas; the other lived in California but previously lived in the same city in Texas. The year was 2002 when I first joined the poetry community. It was a very small group, but this was the pretty early days of the internet, so there was no Facebook. There was quite a difference, relatively speaking, between us as well — I would have been twenty nine years old, and they were fourteen and fifteen years old (the older one was the one who had stopped self-harming). Needless to say, I knew nothing about what self-harming involved, so I was learning as I heard about it.

I’m not going to do a line-by-line or stanza-by-stanza commentary on this poem. It is very much a flow of emotion that came from trying to understand the act of self-harming, and how I could best support them. Around sixteen years later, when I met another person who became a good friend and also was self-harming, I felt I understood better how to be a supportive friend without being out of my depth.

Giles L. Turnbull, Poetry at the Bleeding Edge

As the boundaries between the body of the speaker and the elements of the landscape – which the former initially observes and then moves through while changing form – became increasingly blurred, I realized the poem needed to flow differently: in prose interspersed with dashes that set phrases apart while also keeping them connected and supporting the fluidity of the text.

The shape of the poem on the page – with its first and last two words set apart from the rest (a justified block text) emerged towards the end of the creative process; it puts emphasis on the parallels between ‘a stranger’ and ‘a kin’ and indicates the latter to be an understanding of the self which results from the distinct processes described in the remainder of the poem.

Of all the different challenges I faced when creating this piece and despite choosing the format myself, the latter remains the feature of this poem that still puzzles me a little when I think about it. It felt right at the time of writing, and still does, but I cannot fully explain why.

Drop in by Marie Isabel Matthews-Schlinzig (Nigel Kent)

“The truth is like poetry. And most people f**king hate poetry.”  The Big Short

An entirely minor political poem of mine from almost five years ago is beginning to sound more predictive than sarcastic. Any sort of “Final Economy-Boosting Solution” is not the future I want to see.

And yet…we are living in a time when influential people suggest, for real, that elders should sacrifice themselves–should die– for the sake of the economy. Those voices are getting louder and much more alarming.

Laura Grace Weldon, At What Price

My very part-time gig this school year is developing SEL (social-emotional learning) curriculum for the school I taught at last year, which Cane still teaches at full-time. He and I create the curriculum together and provide some supports for teachers to implement it. Our most recent lesson happened to fall on Tuesday, which was Valentine’s Day. Instead of doing a typical lesson, we planned a love poetry slam, which provided an opportunity to talk about a core SEL skill, social awareness. We got to talk about how not everyone loves VD, and how there are lots of different kinds of love and ways to love, in a way that was fun and built community. Our teachers were the contestants, and they delivered poems conveying a wide range of perspectives on both love and poetry. Some wrote original works, some used song lyrics, and two incorporated AI-written poems into their performances. It was sometimes funny, and sometimes touching, and always so, so good. And it was poetry! (I felt like a stealth English teacher.) Students were pretty much glued to the slammers, but I was glued to them. So many smiles and so much engagement. With poetry! At the end of the day, Cane said, “This was the best Valentine’s Day I can remember in a long, long time.” It really was.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Checking in

In a city somewhere the girl plays
an old love song for her husband.
It’s fine playing, Valentine’s Day, a gift.
He does not listen.
Outside in the reeds by the river
the future waits with all the tunes
she’ll ever need to remember.
She hides behind her flowing hair.

Bob Mee, THE DREAM OF THE PRIEST

These men made it into poems, though sometimes, I created a Frankenstein of their worst traits. My major characters in minor films book had a lot about the 10-year ordeal. As did dirty blonde, which I used as a way to ill-advisedly re-open communication between us 5 years later. The shipwrecks of lake michigan poems were about the delivery man / engineering grad who I turned into a physicist because it was sexier. There were also longer relationships that never quite made it into poems, or only in small details and situations. Emily D’s more slanted truth.  Some weren’t memorable enough to earn a mention at all.  These men merge together to prove a point, or just slip in anecdotally in a poem about something else entirely. Nothing is purely autobiographical. Nothing is not.

This was true even in good, long-lasting healthy relationships. I tried to write a book of love poems for my current partner of 8 years as a Valentine early on and even that, due to some strange circumstances outside the relationship, morphed into a book about men and women and the me-too conversations in society at large and navigating romantic relationships with men in general. I think the initial impetus and details of those poems came from that framework, but they wound up being about something else. As far as I know, he’s never read these poems, but knows the contents of them and that they exist. Some day we will have a laugh and I’ll show him. Outside of that, the better relationships, the sounder ones, have far less appearances in poems, but I think that’s just a condition of culture. 

Kristy Bowen, on exes and exorcisms

The weather is grim, friends. In recent weeks, the days have alternated from snow to rain, but often settling into a fine blend of sn-rain. Such is winter in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. A few more minutes of daylight each week is the sole sign that spring is coming.

The continued indoor time has kept me hopping with pen and keyboard. Sheila-Na-Gig has held recently a series of poetry readings both in late January and through February to celebrate new publications! The time difference between there and here allowed me to partake in poet Simona Carini’s reading of her new collection of poetry, Survival Time. Such a bright gathering of work here, this is a book to add to the shelf.

Additionally, George Franklin’s new collection, Remote Cities, is soon to be released. I’m so eager to read this! And, there is a 20% discount on preorders if ordered by February 28th.

I’ve been quite motivated this winter to return to previous years’ efforts to write regularly and submit work weekly. Duotrope helps me achieve the latter.

Kersten Christianson, Winter Illuminations

What if we crank open the window, not afraid
of death noticing us, take in February
as it is – unshaven, mottled skin, built of
roots and armpits, calm and rough built
before the season of erotic grooming?

Jill Pearlman, Scrappy February

I’ve been working on something really special. Not long after meeting visual artist Donna Gordge, I discovered that we were making work in response to similar themes – grief and the loss of a parent. I suggested we exchange some work, and create new work out of that exchange. The outcome is SOLACE, an exhibition of art and poetry that opens at Mrs Harris Shop at 6pm on Saturday 18 February . SOLACE is a free Adelaide Fringe event.

Mrs Harris Shop is a suburban single room gallery that, yes, used to be a shop before supermarkets became the place we went to buy our groceries and these little shops disappeared. It’s a beautiful, light-filled space.

Donna’s work is on display (including a canopy made out of teabags!), and my seven poems are exhibited alongside. I copied out the poems using a fountain pen on rice paper and I’ll be doing some free readings over the duration of the exhibition.

Caroline Reid, SOLACE, art and poetry exhibition

In Dante’s Inferno, the poet is guided by Virgil on a journey through the nine circles of Hell, witnessing the punishment of souls in ways that are appropriate to the sins they committed in life – a process described as contrapasso,’to suffer the opposite’. Souls are trapped for eternity in a state of retribution specific to their own wrongdoing.

Contrapasso is the title of Alexandra Fössinger’s debut collection, in which poems circle around themes of incarceration, punishment and survival. Her motivation for writing, Fössinger explains, was ‘an attempt at survival after an entirely unexpected bereavement – the imprisonment of someone very dear to me.’  A quote from the Inferno introduces the first part of the collection, a sequence of oneiric poems that are laden with grief and loss.

Marian Christie, Review: Contrapasso by Alexandra Fössinger

The images capture what might lie behind the known. Known things can be categorised and mapped. Imagination that might sneak off on detours or revive memories triggered by senses isn’t categorisable or mappable. Here, smoke, which could be incense, is tempered with flowers then the imagination switches to the colour red, particularly fire which is fuelled by wood. By the end of the poem the travellers have forgotten their purpose and find no signs to get them back on track.

Emma Lee, “Plato is Better at Metaphor than I Am” E M Sherwood Foster (Yavanika Press) – book review

Back in December, I was delighted to be the guest poet on the Planet Poetry Podcast, hosted by Robin Houghton and Peter Kenny. Round about the same time, I began to notice more and more podcasts appearing in my newsfeed on social media, many of which had been running for some time but had slipped under my radar. And then there were comments from my mate Mat Riches about this and that interview or feature that he’d heard on this or that podcast.

And so I started to explore the scene, asking for recommendations on Twitter, realising that while I don’t have the joy of a commute, I do have hours batch-cooking in my kitchen without access to live radio in English – a perfect opportunity to work my way through a fair few poetry podcasts. I quickly found that not only is there a thriving scene, but it’s growing all the time.

Matthew Stewart, U.K. Poetry Podcasts – a list of resources

Constructed out of two extended long poems—the thirteen-page “Hibernia Mon Amour” and eighty-page “Field Guide”—the paired duo critique and examine resource extraction, and rightly savage a corporate ethos simultaneously bathed in blood and oil, and buried deep (as one’s head in the sand), where corporations might pretend that no critique might land. Across a continuous stream of language-lyric, [ryan] fitzpatrick writes of ecological devastation and depictions, planetary destruction, industry-promoted distractions and outright lies. […]

fitzpatrick’s work increasingly embraces an aesthetic core shared with what has long been considered a Kootenay School of Writing standard—a left-leaning worker-centred political and social engagement that begins with the immediate local, articulated through language accumulation, touchstones and disjointedness—comparable to the work of Jeff Derksen, Stephen Collis, Christine Leclerc, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk, Colin Smithand Rita Wong, among others. Whereas most of those poets I’ve listed (being in or around Vancouver, naturally; with the Winnipeg-centred exception of Colin Smith) centre their poetics on more western-specific examples—the trans-mountain pipeline, say—fitzpatrick responds to the specific concerns of his Alberta origins, emerging from a culture and climate that insists on enrichment through mineral extraction even to the point of potential self-annihilation.

rob mclennan, ryan fitzpatrick, Sunny Ways

I think that poetry is perhaps one of the most anti-capitalist of the art forms in that a poem is rarely generated for large sums of capital and poems rarely function as traditional commodities. And yet the circulation and exchange of poems/poetry continues, which to me affirms the necessity and value not only just of poetry per se, but of systems or currencies that exist outside of, or aren’t centered in, capital: language, incantation, song, breath, experiment, narrative or anti-narrative, image, line, communion, compassion, inspiration, creative play. I believe that poetry circles around a shared sense of ineffabilities, things felt or understood but unsayable and unsaid, that pulls us into a space of meaning, or meaning making, that reminds us not only of our ephemerality but also allows us to transcend the state of being mere meatsacks in the service of capital.

Lee Ann Roripaugh : part four (Thomas Whyte)

Spending time reading contemporary poetry books may be a contributing factor to my flurry of new drafts. In the past two weeks or so, I’ve enjoyed perusals of books by Ocean Vuong, Lynn Levin, Jaan Kaplinski, Cleveland Wall, Kim Addonizio. I’m also reading Ian Haight’s newer (unpublished) translations of some Nansorhon poems, a process accompanied by research into the precepts of Taoism and its heavenly denizens and hierarchies. I need some context if I’m going to get as much out of her Taoist poems as I’d like. Thanks to Ian’s research and translations, I did some study of this poet and her work ten years ago; but I focused more on her family situation and constraints and did not examine the most religiously-influenced poems.

One Taoist goddess whose realms and attributes intrigue me is the Queen of the West, also called Queen Mother of the West, or Xiwangmu 西王母. She’s the mythical source of the peach of immortality and was likely important to Nansorhon as a powerful, much-worshiped female deity. Indeed, she’s invoked in several of the Nansorhon poems.

Ann E. Michael, Reading poetry

From a sandy bank
up in the Garhwal mountains
I watched the Ganga ride a gradient —
whitewater in a feverish race to the plains.
Above the hills, an eagle circled slowly.
How lonely is a river running
through all this thriving abundance?
Mother of the earth.
Daughter of the sky.
Praise. Question. Providence.
Your being, your leaving —
between being and leaving

between us
between skin
between time —
I translate silence into
verbs the river understands.
Fish move in deliberate formation
soundless, efficient
splitting the water
not caring about the million thoughts
drowning around them.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Part 34

I love the way the final line of each stanza seems to dart back like a goldfish. I appreciate the restraint in only using the names of 4 different types of fish. I find I’m often drawn to character studies like this, especially where the protagonist gets a bit obsessive about something to the point of ignoring everything else around them. I’ve written a few myself, and so this was pure catnip when I came across it in the book. It sent me back to my own fish poems as well, but they were written from the creature’s point of view. The first stanza sent me back to my own first experience with fish, it was at a scout fair, I think, in the village of Tunstead. I saw someone win a goldfish on a tombola, I think, and then cycled the three miles home to convince my mum to take me to the pet shop in North Walsham (three more miles on) to buy some fish and a tank. I started with a bowl and stones, and little plastic diver, but soon went on to a tank in my room. A tank meant oxygenation kit and regular cleaning, but I loved those fish.

Mat Riches, Drifting Towards A Modest Shark

I’m learning to listen. And to trust that that – in my silence – things are settling into a deeper understanding: more wholly, and more secure with roots taking hold through the time it takes to connect to memory – to experience. I am taking time. Probably because I have to. None of this is by choice. I would much rather slide over everything as though it’s all part of a pop-quiz “close reading” to pin down the meaning of each interaction. But every non-sequitur in a conversation doesn’t need to be a Freudian puzzle or a Cassandrian prophecy. I don’t have to participate in the construction of a distance between moment and mind.

I no longer believe that if I can put words to it, I can handle it better. I can pack it into a carpet bag and carry it with me. Heavily pulling on one shoulder, then the other. I can give someone I love a “truth” wrapped in cellophane and ribbons, but it will always be symbolic: a kind of allusion that takes us both away from ourselves.

I mean, it’s not like we swim in the river then take it home with us, dragging it along like an enormous plastic bag with a single goldfish we want to keep in a bowl in the entrance hall – with blue marbles.

Ren Powell, Just Keep Swimming

I’ve been setting up book launches around town – one at a winery in Woodinville, one at Open Books, and now one at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, too. I even have a virtual reading in New York State set up. All this, and trying not to catch covid, or break anything, or have any health crises before all these events. We don’t control everything, but I’m trying to be careful and conscious. I’m also hoping the winter ends soon as we can see spring instead of snow. I can just hope for the best, and hope I might see some of you soon.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Getting Ready for AWP: New Glasses, New Hair, New Book, and Getting Used to Hugs Again

Outside my bedroom window it’s not quite dawn. Palm tree fronds are black against the lighter black of the birthing day. A lone car occasionally whooshes on the street reminding me of the whoosh of skates on ice. It’s a soothing yet active sound. An early morning sound before the constant growl of engines begins. I imagine these few people going to open their donut shop or to their shift at the hospital. A bird is singing. Why do we always think the bird is happy in its song? Maybe the bird is gathering its strength for a day of hunting for food, feeding its young. Skating through the day until she can rest again. Kind of like us.

Charlotte Hamrick, Morning Meditation: Skating

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 5

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 or subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader. This week, I was charmed by the outpouring of affection for Linda Pastan on social media, most of us not realizing how many other Pastan fans were out there until she died. Judging by the size of the reaction in my feeds, she was at least as popular as Charles Simic, which might surprise a critic or two. So Pastan appreciation bookends a digest full of new book and manuscript news, strategies for writing better or more regularly, and the usual weird and wonderful assortment of essays, reviews, and poems. Enjoy,


I am still in shock that Linda Pastan has died. I liked knowing she was in the world. We first met when I was sixteen and she visited my high school library to give a poetry reading. 

Twenty years later we met again at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. She was the one that suggested I return to graduate study for an MFA. As she hugged me goodbye at the end of the two weeks, she asked me to keep in touch with her so she could follow my career. I looked over my shoulder sure she must be speaking to someone else. As a creating writing professor now myself, I’m stunned by how much power that one sentence had to change my life. And yes, reader, we did stay in touch. I last saw her when she came out to Seattle with her husband for a reading. […]

I wonder what it means to write one superb poem after another but not to win the Pulitzer or become Poet Laureate, to not be given the gold ring by the powers that be? Pastan did not take multiple lovers (as far as I know) or commit suicide; she did not behave badly. I remember telling a professor in my graduate program that she had been an important influence and I could sense his dismissiveness. I’ve since heard that same story from several women poets who wanted to study her work. Why not Eavan Boland was weirdly the response.

I am hopeful that someone organizes a book of critical essays on Pastan’s work or perhaps is already at work on a biography. Perhaps that will be me…

Susan Rich, Linda Pastan (1932 – 2023)

In the Belly

As a woman carries an insect, unconscious
of the sign it shapes with diplomatic footfalls
across her skin, she carries me. As a lake
lifts the sky’s image, all burnished admiration, or
proffers a crushed cup, a leaf, a rainbow slick
of grease. […]

“In the Belly” is one translation of Imbolc, a.k.a. St. Brigid’s day, midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, a time for lambing, spring cleaning, and many blessings, including lengthening daylight. I’m no expert on Irish, pagan, Christian, or any other kind of festival, but this seasonal turn matters to me. I wrote the poem above around Imbolc years ago, when a sensation of being held up by a benevolent force arrived suddenly and very strongly. I perceived the feeling itself, and the poem accompanying it, as gifts.

Lesley Wheeler, She carries me

It is strange how an absence of weight makes me feel heavier rather than lighter. Her warm, black-furred body, usually pressed against my hip all night, has been replaced by emptiness when I reach out for her in the dark and fall into a depth of grief I thought had passed. Perhaps that one small grief for a cat calls out to the others that are still sheltering in my heart. And maybe all they want to do is shake off their sleepiness for a while, take a walk around my bed. Still here, they say, proving to me, once again, that grief is the proof of great love. But this addition of a cat’s life to the parade seems, for now, almost unbearable. This will pass, I know. We owe it to ourselves, the living, as well as to the memory of the dead, to turn our faces to the light of the world, remind ourselves of the joy we have gathered, the joy there is yet to be gathered. 

Lynne Rees, Prose poem ~ When cats curl up in your heart and fall asleep there

This year, as I thought about the feast day of Saint Brigid, I thought, I could make a woven cross. Sure, I don’t have reeds or rushes, but I have cloth. I have so much cloth. Just a year ago, I didn’t have enough to even think about a small project, much less a bigger one. But now I have enough cloth for several large projects and any small project I might want to do. […]

I am glad to have had this experience, although it took longer than I thought it would, about an hour from start to finish.  I tried to do it meditatively, giving thanks for women like Saint Brigid, who founded some of the first Christian monasteries in Ireland, most famously the legendary one in Kildare.  She also founded a school of art that focuses on metal working and illumination. 

Now let me go out for a walk.  We got our first dusting of snow last night, and it’s beautiful to look at from inside.  Let me go get a closer look.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Saint Brigid’s Cross in Cloth

There is maybe a melancholy
in the burdened curve
of its filaments, but
there’s a wisdom too
within the flesh of its anthers.

And, if you peer close,
there on the single stamen eye,
the limpid markings
that they call old man’s tears.

Dick Jones, OLD MAN’S TEARS

Nine years ago, I reviewed Rebecca Farmer’s first pamphlet, Not Really (Smith-Doorstep, 2014) on this blog, admiring its subtle treatment of love, suffering and death, noting…

the role of ghosts. They crop up in several poems. They are characters. They take on human traits. As such, their haunting qualities are exacerbated.

And today, as I sit down to write about her second pamphlet, A Separate Appointment (New Walk Editions, 2022), I’m struck by how much of my previous review holds true for these new poems, which seem to present two different strands – roughly speaking, hospitals and those afore-mentioned ghosts – that intertwine. In these poems, Farmer reminds us that death cannot exist without life, and that the living have to contend with others’ deaths.

In this context, the final stanza of ‘The Ghosts regret joining a self-help group’ provides an excellent illustration of the latent tension between life and death, Farmer’s work inhabiting a no-man’s land between the two.

Matthew Stewart, The intertwining of life and death, Rebecca Farmer’s A Separate Appointment

Weekend mornings are for writing, and submitting writing, and keeping the coffee hot and topped off. This morning, I’ve supplemented that routine with the read of an interview, the listen to a podcast, and a read of an article written by poet friends; each piece as diverse and wonderful as the thinker writers behind it. Worth your time to read and listen and marvel. Thank you, Eric Coughlin Hollowell, Lisa Stice, and Vivian Faith Prescott.

Kersten Christianson, Untangling by Beach, Military Poetry, and Salmonberry Dreams

snow
the lights of the houses
on the river

Jim Young [no title]

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?

There are loads of roles writers can take on. Amanda Gorman took on a public role with her inauguration poem “The Hill We Climb.” Jericho Brown and Ilya Kaminsky seem to be part of larger discourses that go beyond poetry.

I often remind myself of all the Archibald MacLeish books that lined the book aisles of every thrift store in America I’ve ever been to. We’re all writing in a historical context about things that address very specific historical contexts. If we’re lucky one or a few of pieces might speak beyond that, but that isn’t really up to us.

I recently read Ted Hughes’ translation of Racine’s Phedre. I think poets translating poets is an essential role that those of us who are bi- or multilingual should consider. It’s a service to the craft.

rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (second series) questions with David Harrison Horton

The other evening I was in Lewes listening to Jackie Wills and Grace Nichols being interviewed by Mark Hewitt. One of the topics they discussed was the idea of having a ‘personal canon’, in other words those poets or poetry collections that have either been formative influences, or that you dip into regularly for inspiration. The talk was of how important it was to remember that poetry is very much a matter of personal taste, and that it’s pretty difficult for everyone to agree on ‘the poetry canon’, except perhaps for Shakespeare and a handful of other ‘greats’.

It made me think of the huge variety of ‘exemplar’ poems you come across in poetry workshops. On Grace’s list were Derek Walcott, Elizabeth Jennings and Sylvia Plath. She very cannily declined to mention the names of any living poets, for fear (she said) of upsetting anyone, since many of her contemporaries are her friends.

I started wondering who would be on my list.

Robin Houghton, A quickfire ‘personal canon’

I was especially pleased to hear Pat Winslow’s poem ‘As for the owl’ which carries a dedication to the late, much-missed Helen Kidd. By a strange coincidence, Helen was one of the members of the Old Fire Station Poetry Workshop (led by Tom Rawling by in the 1980s) ) about which I talk in my piece.

I also talk about growing up in rural Wiltshire in a house with few books. My years spent pursuing science – beginning to study medicine at Guys Hospital in London – then my drastic shift to studying Philosophy and English at Lancaster University, where I worked with the Scottish poet, David Craig, on one of the first Creative Writing courses in the UK. At Worcester College, Oxford, in the 1980s I was writing a DPhil thesis on the poet Shelley while also attending poetry workshops with WN Herbert, Peter Forbes, Pauline Stainer, Keith Jebb, Anne Born (and Tom and Helen).

Kathleen also asked me to say something about the poets I go back to and I talk a little (and read from) Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and WS Merwin. Trying to pick contemporary poets to highlight is an impossible task but, on this occasion at least, I speak about Marvin Thompson, Nancy Campbell and John McCullough.

Martyn Crucefix, Interviewed on ‘Poetry Worth Hearing’

Can’t force a poem,
only invite it.
Like spring.

Keep the door propped
the circuits open
bag packed

for when
Elijah arrives, singing
better days coming.

Build a perch
for the goldfinch
from painted willow.

Even if
it’s hard to believe.
Especially then.

Rachel Barenblat, Open

If nuclear winter were just a long dream of spring.

If clocks took an occasional time out to give us more breathing room between good times and the grave.

If lies wore prison stripes and could be easily recognized.

If police brutality was nothing more than that song talking about how early one morning, the sun was shining,

and everything was tangled up in blue.

Rich Ferguson, Blue

Throughout my reading of Year of the Murder Hornet I kept marveling over Cane’s ability to linger over the spaces in between things. Specifically, the choice to include additional white space within the lines of each poem emphasizes both how stalled shifts in the pandemic can make us feel as well as how necessary it is to take our time. By take our time I mean in terms of reading the situation — whether it be assessing what the reality behind phrases like “the new normal” actually is like, to preparing (mentally, physically) for the changes brought on by decisions at our jobs or by the government which we have no say in.

The poems “Essay on Gentrification” and “Minority Report” also work in this vein and are good examples of how this collection takes its time interrogating the nuances of life during a pandemic, nuances that are often lost in debates and political discourse.

José Angel Araguz, microreview: Year of the Murder Hornet by Tina Cane

Lee Ann Roripaugh’s fifth volume of poetry, tsunami vs. the fukushima 50 (Milkweed Editions, 2019), was named a “Best Book of 2019” by the New York Public Library, selected as a poetry Finalist in the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards, cited as a Society of Midland Authors 2020 Honoree in Poetry, and was named one of the “50 Must-Read Poetry Collections in 2019” by Book Riot. She is the author of four other volumes of poetry […]

What are you working on?

I’m currently in the process of finishing up my sixth volume of poetry, a manuscript titled Kaze no Denwa / The Wind Phone. While conducting research for my prior book, tsunami vs. the fukushima 50, I learned that a man named Itaru Sasaki had placed a phone booth with a disconnected rotary-dial phone in a hilltop garden overlooking Otsuchi, Japan—a century-old town decimated by the 2011 tsunami. Sasaki originally used the phone to process his grief over the loss of a beloved family member. He described these conversations as phone calls made “on the wind.” After the tsunami, survivors who’d lost loved ones started visiting Sasaki’s phone booth from all along the Tohoku coast—making pilgrimages to speak to their dead on what became known as the kaze no denwa, or “wind phone.” Apparently, visitors would share their daily news, or express their regrets. Sometimes callers would plead with their deceased to please come back, or beseech them to look out for one another. Sometimes they’d simply say that they were lonely. In the most heartbreaking phone calls, callers would apologize for not having been able to save their dead. 

Needless to say, I found these accounts of the wind phone resonant and incredibly moving. But also, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about intersections of loss (environmental loss; personal loss; parental losses due to aging, death, and dementia; losses due to trauma; losses due to disasters such as COVID-19 or climate change), I began to ask myself what it might mean to write a “wind phone” poem. And so I began drafting direct-address elegiac poems that speak to these types of grief, putting them in conversation with one another: my father’s death, my mother’s Alzheimer’s, extinction, climate change, COVID-19, as well as psychological and emotional losses due to abuse, illness, or trauma.

These direct-address poems are interspersed with poems written in five parts that circulate associationally and linguistically around a single word, or concept. I’ve been thinking of these poems as “mappings.” I also wanted to set these mappings in dialogue with an ancient Japanese map called “Jishin-no-ben.” “Jishin-no-ben” represents an ouroboros, a dragon eating its own tail, circling around a geographical area in Japan. This map was apparently meant to serve as a visual explanation, or warning, for the earthquakes and tsunamis that had occurred there. These are poems in which I map out a larger context for the disasters creating the griefs, or losses, that are spoken on the wind. Each section also contains a hybrid prose poem/lyric flash essay “notes” piece that unpacks some of the related psychological underpinnings, or fallout, of trauma. 

Thomas Whyte, Lee Ann Roripaugh : part one

It is one of those mornings when I put my fingers on the keys and stare a few moment at my hands. The pattern of blood vessels on the back of each. Ropey and bluish, like a coarse crochet work. There are still things these hands will learn to do, or learn to do better. They are the rough beauty of solid machinery. They are their own “back in the day” and still going.

They are the touchstone for earned wisdom. Sometimes offering the touch that frightens young and old alike. Where bones become stone, and foreshadow everything overwrought in our poems.

As here.

I wonder what it would be like to live without mirrors – without looking at oneself, or pieces of oneself, as a constructed and staged other.

Ren Powell, Can We Look Away?

I haven’t felt like writing lately. I mean, as in I don’t even have the desire nor does it bother me. Or does it? I saw a call for micro poems this morning which closes today and began looking through my files. But that’s done writing, not to-be-done writing, so it doesn’t count. I keep seeing calls for submissions and think should I try to write something? but the thought flows away like a cloud with another destination. I have made some minor changes in the essay I’ve been working on from time to time. I have a vague feeling I’d like to sub it here but I don’t know that I’ll make the deadline. I’m not sure if what I’m experiencing is a general malaise or a rebellion. (Isn’t that a provocative statement?)

Charlotte Hamrick, Reading and Eating

A few days ago, realizing that the daily haiku practice was reminding me of why I stopped last year, I changed the task on my daily to-do list from “haiku” to “write something.” That’s what I’m trying to do each day. It doesn’t need to be a haiku or a poem or a story or any specific thing. I just need to write something. I guess I mean something more than a photo caption or a tweet. Something that exists for its own sake, if that makes any sense.

Most days I’ve written something. As time passes, I’ll probably come up with a stronger feeling about what “write something” means to me. For now, though, I like that it’s nebulous. The idea is to just keep using my brain and heart via the medium of words. The rest will work itself out.

Jason Crane, Write something

They say when the migratory cranes come to the
Phobjika Valley, they circle the monastery three
times. They fly around it again when they leave
after winter. The places we go to sink deep into
our bones.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Part 32

It’s been a challenging few months for poetry.

I don’t know of another art form that is subjected to such frequent death threats. When have you heard someone proclaim the death of music, dance, or the visual or performing arts? None of these seems to inspire the type of fury that poetry does. As Muriel Rukeyser wrote in “The Resistances,” the first chapter of her essential book The Life of Poetry, “Anyone dealing with poetry and the love of poetry must deal, then, with the hatred of poetry, and perhaps even more with the indifference which is driven toward the center.”

Erica Goss, Poetry Survives Latest Death Threat

The road from spark to book is long. Longer than you would guess. For some writers, that moment from inspiration to finished book can span decades. My newest collection, Corvus and Crater, was a year in the writing and revising. That’s pretty quick, even for a poet. After you finish the manuscript, there is the long road to publication – and well, that took three years. But I’m very excited to announce that Corvus and Crater will be released next month by the wonderful publisher Salmon Poetry.

Corvus and Crater sprung from my fear that with the weight of responsibilities of my beloved work at Storyknife Writers Retreat and the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference I would just never write again. That I would become a full-time arts administrator, zero-time poet. A past poet. So, on my birthday in 2019, I set myself an assignment: write a poem each day with fifty-four syllables – six lines of nine syllables apiece. There was no end destination – it was just a way to keep myself going.

The limits of the form really pressurized my writing, and the poems became a conversation with myself and with the books I was reading and the ideas that I was surrounding myself with. And because they were all written within a one year period – they held together as a manuscript. Here’s the description I wrote for the book: the enigmatic poems of Corvus and Crater explore a single winter though the eyes of Crow. The wheeling constellations, seasonal rituals, and Alaska’s charismatic landscape feature in a struggle to claim home and bodily agency, to control the myths and stories that form us. Composed of fifty-four sestets of fifty-four syllables apiece, Corvus and Crater resides in the tension between gleam and darkness, introspection and outward conflict, the self and the world.  

Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Introducing Corvus and Crater

Here’s a bit of glad tidings. My manuscript The Red Queen Hypothesis won the Prairie State Poetry Prize and will be published before the end of 2023–maybe even by the end of this summer! It’s thrilling to have won an award like this.

In fact, I should be jumping up and down with glee that RQH finally will see print, as it has taken me numerous submissions, two acceptances that did not come to fruition, and a considerable number of pauses to reassess the manuscript. But my initial feeling is more of relief than elation. Relief that now I can turn all of my focus to newer work: a manuscript nearly completed and one that I’m just starting to collate and imagine. Well–not all of my focus in those directions. There is the work of promoting the new book, work that I find difficult and challenging because it’s not really in my wheelhouse. Highland Park Poetry is a tiny independent non-profit press and doesn’t have the resources to do much promotion; Jennifer Dotson, Founder & Creative Engine behind the organization, runs several contests, produces a newsletter, and hosts a Facebook page of contributing poets. She also hosts a poetry podcast and at least one reading series…a busy person, working on a small budget. People like her and Larry Robin are the guardian angels of poetry in the USA. Many thanks, Jennifer. I’ll do what I can to promote my book.

Ann E. Michael, Book news!

Well, this week held a happy surprise: three boxes of books arrived at my door yesterday morning! Since the book’s official release date is several months down the line in spring, I was happy but also felt that I was suddenly behind on everything related to the book.

The book is bigger and more square and substantial feeling than all of my previous books (which should make shipping more interesting), but it felt absolutely terrific to be holding a book that was six years in the making—and contains some of my most vulnerable work, from the most challenging time in my life.

I tried my hand at making videos again (this time, a short unboxing video) and took pictures of the cats with my book. I was so overwhelmed I felt literally light-headed!

Jeannine Hall Gailey, The Early Arrival of Author Copies of Flare, Corona (!!!), Celebrations with Poet Friends, Fun Videos, Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day/Groundhog Day and the Sun’s Slow Return

In school, I was struggling with forming perfect letters, but at home, I was filling notebooks with things only I could decipher. When we mastered printing and moved on to cursive, it was better, though I was still not as neat as I would later be, when in high school, I modeled my perfectly slanted penmanship after my French teacher with her perfect little crossed sevens.  I still continued my brand of writing even after I was learning how to actually write–it was faster, less laborious, and really no one was reading it anyway, not even me. […]

My mother, in her later years, once remarked to a stranger, at a reading they accompanied me to at a university, that she always wondered what I was doing, hiding in my room with my pen scratching across some notebook, or writing hunched over the coffee table cross-legged on the floor, even in summer when I was not studying. Only now she saw the fruits of it in the poems that I read and published (this was 2008 or so). That she finally got it–what I was doing all that time.  What I continued to do. 

Still, I love a pretty notebook and occasionally buy one just for the beauty of it, even now when so much of my writing happens through the click of keys. I also decorate my notebooks much as I did in high school to keep them identifiable according to which writing job they’re for. They sit in a stack underneath my monitor, though I do, at least, throw them out when they’re full.

Kristy Bowen, on graphomania, or for the love of notebooks

When I was a little left-handed kid growing up in Ireland we used fountain pens and I always smudged the letters as I wrote. I was really happy when I began going to Hebrew school and found out that Hebrew is read from right to left—the opposite of English. I could write clearly while all the other right-handed kids smudged their writing and got ink all over their hands. This was electric: this idea that language could be turned around. That it could make you look at things differently. Your inky hand. The page. Your way of being in the world. I know that in the modern world, in modern Israel, Hebrew is used to ask for an oil change or go on the Internet and order socks, but for me, my first association these particular letterforms, the Hebrew alphabet, the otiyot, was that it was the language of my ancestors, the shape of my people. Ancient, mysterious, and numinous. Not that they didn’t speak of socks and B.O., but for centuries, it was a sacred, but not an everyday language. Its shapes: thick lines of black-and-white each ending in a little curl like a black flame rising. Was this flame something to do with the temple? With eternal light? Or perhaps an arcane Kabbalistic alchemy of words. The prayerbooks in the shul of my childhood were musty and worn, like the old tefillim of the praying men…or the threadbare carpets. The prayerbooks had been shaped by use, the way an old tool takes the form of the hand that touched it. And it seemed like the Hebrew letters had also been shaped this way: They had been worn over millenia by the touch and speech of those who had muttered their sounds. And Hebrew, at least in the traditional shapes, seemed to preserve the motions of ink and brush, the motions of a scribe not writing so much as drawing the letters, his hand floating above the surface of the parchment like a hovering bird.

Gary Barwin, BROKEN LIGHT: THE ALEFBEIT AND THE MISSING LETTER

One thing I noticed about painting stripes onto paper is how much more difficult it is than I had imagined. For instance, I couldn’t go ahead and paint each sonnet in one sitting but had to, instead, wait until each stripe was dry to prevent the colours bleeding. Sounds blooming obvious, doesn’t it, but not to me! I’m conscious of using a lot of paper for this project so I’m grateful to have in my possession a box of different sizes, types and colours of paper that were left on the pavement of a neighbour’s house. They originally belonged to a lady who died, and her family gave away some of her belongings rather than discarding them when they sold the house. I think about that person each time I make a poem using some of her paper. I hope she feels my gratitude, wherever she is. As well as painting, I’ve also been pattern making, using Sharpie pens, and I’m going to cut into these patterns to make more visual poems.

Josephine Corcoran, January Update

Wednesday was the biggest day of action for decades but the government didn’t care. They appear to be only interested in ruining the country. But enough of the public school educated elite who are not interested in the people they are supposed to represent, I found an old poem the other day, one I had forgotten about. I rearranged the layout and changed the odd word.

DECOUPAGE FOR THE MIND

He can think photographs
scry alternate worlds

He holds the light sensitive paper to his forehead
his thoughts embellish it with another life […]

Paul Tobin, DECOUPAGE FOR THE MIND

In the adjoining room a man from Missouri is proud that, according to the radio station KCFZ, four of the thirty-four greatest poets who ever lived are from Missouri. He tells his seven hundred and sixteen followers on Twitter about this and waits excitedly at his laptop for replies to come in, for retweets and likes. After twenty minutes he walks into the communal kitchen to make himself a coffee but there is no milk and he can never understand people who take their coffee without milk. He returns to his room. Still no replies. His day has taken a morose and bitter turn. He tells himself: Somebody, somewhere, will pay for this.

Dolores tells Edith, who helps her with washing and dressing: Dance until the bagpipes kill the sheep. That’s what you must do. You’re young, my dear, so very young. And after all it is forbidden to climb the steps of the pyramid of Kukulcan and Avian Flu has been found in otters and foxes.

Bob Mee, DANCE UNTIL THE BAGPIPES KILL THE SHEEP, SHE SAID

Moths tuck themselves
into drawers, where they
work out their hidden
citzenships in scripts
of perforated silver.

The taut threads
of the hammock loosen;
day loses to night,
and night again to day,

Who was I
before the earth
shook my world to pieces,
before parts of barely formed
history were buried along with beams
of a house that no longer exists?

Luisa A. Igloria, Dear Exile

how far from her moon shall the sleeper wander

how far from water can one drown

when all that is dust returns to song
where will i be found

Grant Hackett [no title]

As I shared in December, I’ve planned a kinder, gentler approach to my creative life for 2023. The new approach is like sensible shoes: not quite as sexy but less pain, more mileage. At least that’s the idea. And so far, so good!

I’ve been keeping up with art and writing by doing at least one small thing each day.* Some days, I’m happy with what I get done. Other days, it’s hard to believe that these small efforts will reach critical mass. And on both types of days, I’m trusting the process. Overall, that means less fretting, so that’s an early win for the self-imposed shake-up.

It’s also helping me reconstruct the idea of myself as a poet and artist, and I’m shamelessly nurturing that both on my “regular”/poetry Instagram (@carolee26) and my visual art Instagram (@gooduniversenextdoor).

Carolee Bennett, the shake-up is shaping up

Even if one reads the haiku merely as an expression of curiosity – that the moon has appeared to align its bright white roundness into and with the roundness of the glass’s bottom – it is still a magical moment, like the alignment of planetary bodies.

A more cynical reading might be that including ‘the well / of’ enables the haiku to fall unobtrusively into a 5–7–5 pattern and provides an alliteration with ‘whisky’. For me, though, the addition truly enriches the poem. This haiku is the exception to the rule that 5–7–5 haiku in English are generally too verbose and therefore need trimming: here, cutting back to a 5–4–5 would diminish the poem’s effectiveness.

Matthew Paul, On a haiku by John Hawkhead

I spoke to a new writer the other day. They were rosy-cheek-excited about how they were writing right along, happily, regularly. They also mentioned they’d signed up for a course at a community college about how to get published.

I groaned inwardly. (It’s possible I groaned outwardly.) I know the way excitement about a creation leaps quite readily to trying to put that creation out in the world. (I fall prey to it still all the damn time.) I also know how people are happy to take your money to tell you some handy things without mentioning the other stuff, specifically, in this case, the waiting, the doubt, the rejection after rejection after rejection. (I may have mentioned to them that last item.)

What I didn’t mention that maybe I should have , or maybe not, not quite yet, is that vital, hard-won, takes-a-lifetime-to-learn, oft overlooked middle step: the revision step. The put-your-tender-darling-in-a-drawer step. The read-read-read step, which means not just read slaphappily, but read as a writer. Which means read with questions in mind: what is pleasing me about this work, displeasing me, and why, and how can I apply any lessons learned to my own work.

Marilyn McCabe, The real thing come and the real thing go; or, The Bad News About Revision

I have finished my poetry manuscript. “Finished”? I finished it last April, too, and sent it out, then withdrew it from several contests. I couldn’t say why it didn’t feel ready, it simply didn’t.

A friend suggested that I not think globally, condemning the entire ms, but to instead focus on individual poems. What I actually did was ignore it. I took a class. I worked on my send-out practice. I (finally) returned to my mystery novel. Then, in October, I finished the rewrite of the mystery.

And the poems were still sitting there, muddy and neglected, their unwashed faces looking up at me.

I again found useful distractions. A short story re-write, notably. Then, I broke my arm and was unable to type.

Bethany Reid, Where You’ll Find Me

As with many writers, I’m better known outside my community than within it.

Sure, a couple dozen of my poems have appeared on signs at local events, and yes, the people in charge of the events liked my work (thank you so much! <3), but I don’t think anyone who didn’t already know me connected the poems with the poet. (In one instance, someone looked at one of my poem signs and actually turned to me and said “Who is Bill Waters?”) So I’m hoping that an article in the widely circulated Hopewell Valley Neighbors magazine (pictured below) will serve to introduce me to readers where I live.

It’s not that I’m seeking attention. It’s just that local publication will add greater credibility to my reputation so that perhaps I’ll have an easier time getting people interested in future public poetry efforts. “Have you seen this article? Here are the kind of poems I write,” I’ll say in a way that’s both enthusiastic and modest. (In my dreams! In real life, I’ll probably just stammer something out and then wish I were someplace else.)

Bill Waters, Hopewell Valley Neighbors magazine

This is one of a couple of poems that I can date fairly precisely — at least in terms of the year. I was working in London and living in Luton when I found an online poetry forum called Crystal Lake Poetics. It ceased a long time ago, and it was pretty small, but this was the early days of the internet — before the social media world that we are familiar with today. The forum was based in America, and it had a chat box where I chatted most nights to a couple of girls from Denton, TX, and one from Stockton, CA who had lived in Denton. The time difference therefore was pretty substantial! And that is what made me think of portraying these conversations like the scene in Turandot, where Princess Turandot has decreed, as related in the famous tenor aria, Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep), that none shall sleep that night until the unknown prince’s name is known.

We really were like shadows nattering back and forth, talking about everything and nothing; occasionally I’d start something poetic based on these discussions. I remember a favourite random acronym that got flung into the chat window related to tacos with extra cheese and lots of mayo, though I can’t remember it exactly enough to recreate the acronym!

Giles L. Turnbull, Poetry On Stage

I don’t know about you, but sometimes a poem just hits hard and is the right thing to read at the right time. It’s been one hell of a week at work and in life. Despite the wonderful news this week that I now have a publication date for my Red Squirrel pamphlet and that work can now begin in earnest on it (not that it hasn’t already, but you take my point, I hope), the week has been dragged down by the continued decline of our eldest cat, an unexpected and unwelcome outlay on a new washing machine, and a hectic week that has barely allowed for a moment to pause.

So when I sat down to read my copy of Pearls this week after it had made its way to the top of my TBR pile, I found myself being absolutely smacked round the chops (in a good way) by reading the poem above. I felt Philpott’s pain. I was there with him in every sentence.

Mat Riches, Pearls before sauces

What burdens would you let that abyss
of worn satin swallow?
And what would you tuck away
in the place of honor, that one-off
disfigured, awkward pocket
where you stash your favorite secret
like a stale and stolen butterscotch?

Kristen McHenry, Baggage

Judith‘s large-format Buttonhole binding is made from a huge charcoal drawing done in 1989, torn apart and machine-stitched onto washi paper. The charcoal cover and pages are sealed with beeswax polish. The book smells wonderful! […]

Here are some photos of my Buttonhole binding. On cotton rag paper pages dyed with vegetable waste I have handwritten a found poem written on a dreadful day when I avidly consumed the news on BBC Radio 4. The silk for the book-cloth was alum-mordanted and dyed with red cabbage leaves and onion skins. The cover is lined with a piece of marbled paper that has been lying in a drawer for years.

Ama Bolton, ABCD February 2023

Weren’t we lucky, once?

I want to say that we had no idea how good we had it, but that’s too easy and not quite true. Filling out an intake form recently, I wrote that I am, right now, the best I’ve ever been. And I am. That is true. Sure, I would love to still have my 20-year-old body–and so many of the things and people and places and opportunities I’ve had and lost since then–but not the fears and worries and nearly unbearable weight of the impending choices my younger self struggled to carry.

Yes, we had so much. Yes, we had it all ahead of us. Yes, there is something wonderful about a mostly blank slate. And also: It was terrifying and hard and confusing because there was so much we didn’t know and so much pressure to get it All Right. We didn’t know, then, that all right was a fantasy, a myth. That we would never be entirely OK, no matter which choices we did and didn’t make. That simply choosing right would not prevent wounds or heal the ones we didn’t even know, yet, that we had. That even the golden ones among us would suffer. That our lives would always be as they were and had always been, a terrible, gorgeous mix.

Rita Ott Ramstad, And don’t it feel good

I had taken these still life photographs at about the same time I learned about the death of Linda Pastan. I knew she had written a poem about still life, so I looked that up. I read her obit in The Washington Post, finding it interesting that she placed first in a contest in Mademoiselle magazine where Sylvia Plath placed second. She was 90. Poets always feel so timeless in their work so this was a surprise, too. In short, I did all the things I always do when a poet I’ve read and admired died. Took her books off my shelf. Read a few dogeared poems.

It never seems enough, but there it is. […]

I recently picked up Diane Seuss’s Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl. I’ve honestly just opened it up and read a line or two here or there and you know that thing where something is so freaking good you just can’t? Yah. I mean for sure I will read it, but also, it’s hard when it’s also your big subject and likely this writer did it so much better :) But that’s GOOD too, right?

Because, here is the big secret of the writing life. We can all do it. Some people will get more acclaim and some will deserve it and some will maybe not quite so very much but none of that actually matters. The writing matters. Your life is going to be made so much more amazing by doing the writing you do, or whatever art you make. So just persist and be rigorous and joyful and delight in the whole beautiful ridiculous mess of it, sometimes rubbish, sometimes chocolate cake delicious. Laugh at your successes and laugh at the rejections and your bloody anonymity and be graceful and humble and raise your eyebrows at times and take such a deep and wonderful delight at everything that everyone is making. Because it could be fucking otherwise? You’re here. This is your time. Make whatever things you have always wanted to make. Please. Trust me it’s all worth it. You’ll look back some day at your little pile of books or stacks of paintings or files of photographs and go, huh! And really, ain’t that pretty cool?

Shawna Lemay, Still Life and Learning to Abandon the World