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 in the poetry blogs, the still-unfolding invasion of Ukraine, and war in general, remained on many people’s minds, but made room for other topics as well, including dying or departed fathers, questions of identity and mask, and varying approaches to levity and grief.
Now’s not the time to tell your story. They said. Not when the
skies are ablaze, not when we wonder if the edges can be pulled
together again, not when a contrived dystopia keeps spawning
reasons for the anticlimactic end. There is a hierarchy of suffering,
a taxonomy of hurt, your role now is to pause, to witness, toRajani Radhakrishnan, They said
gather shards of cloud-grief and sew them into the first rain.
Even in the earliest literature, exile is a fate akin to death. A man without a community will die a slow death of some sort.
(Romeo does return from exile, but that wasn’t really a great decision.)
But how long can a blind man wander the desert in exile before he stumbles onto something venomous? But Oedipus didn’t go it alone. His children led him through it – to another town, where he was accepted. Then the earth swallowed him. Sophocles didn’t write about the years of wandering. He wrote a happy ending: death in the bosom of a community.
Maybe I will write about the desert years. What dies out there, what doesn’t.
I will write about what and who we bump into out there. How we can reach out to people we once knew – but, now feeling the contours of their faces with our fingers, we know them intimately for the first time. It is possible.Ren Powell, What We Take Into Account
I’ve felt heartbroken by current events, as well as frightened, and not just for the Ukrainian people. Even if it is contained, the ramifications of this war will be felt by all of us, and who knows where it will end: are we, in fact, going back to the Cold War years? Will all the diplomatic, economic, and collaborative progress of the last forty years be lost? What about nuclear containment? What kind of weapons will be unleashed? Will nuclear facilities be protected, or will there be another horrific event like Chernobyl? Will the conflict spread to Eastern and then Western Europe? It’s unthinkable. The scale of the risk is so much greater and more complex than the well-meant but naive yellow-and-blue flags and sunflowers cropping up all over social media. If you send aid, please do it through established and reputable channels where it has a chance of getting through.
It is a very sober time: a time when I feel called to silent reflection, learning, and meditating on history and on the present, as we still deal with Covid and climate change and all the other pressing problems of our personal and shared lives that seem dwarfed by each day;s news. I haven’t been able to write much, but I’ve tried to draw. I hope you are finding ways to cope, and would be glad to have you share your thoughts.Beth Adams, Day by Day
Palm trees in El Paso
are haloed in snow
rarer in mid-March
than the Russian tanks
bombarding a Mariupol shoe
factory, the psychiatric
hospital, a maternity ward,
apartments emptying to
missiles. A hotel sauna,
a subway — deep space
underground — targeted
hemmed with smoking autos,
plastic bags and rolling
luggage left behind.Maureen Doallas, Late Winter (Poem)
The Apocalypse feels like it’s knocking at the door. Are we going to answer?
The picture at left was taken this week after 1) spending two hours getting four fillings in my front teeth and 2) getting my hair cut and colored. These things are a total waste of time if a maniac ends the world in nuclear war or the pandemic kills me. Yes, I think about weird stuff like that. How do we respond of existential despair and threats of war and pestilence? Do we think harder about how we spend our time, our money, our love, our votes?
So, in a way, every act – going to work, kissing your spouse, petting your cat, is an act of rebellion against nihilism. Stopping to take pictures of trees – something I started doing when I was diagnosed with terminal cancer over five years ago (I was told I did not have six months, FYI…always get a second opinion, kids!) – is to make a record of the beauty as the world continues. Until I stop, or it stops. My philosophy.
Speaking of that, I saw the first cherry blossoms this week in Kirkland, and I also photographed another early spring bloom, quince. Quinces look like ugly shrubs in the winter, and then they have these beautiful blooms and fruit. I’ve always liked those kinds of things. Apple trees with their twisted arms and shrubby height, how fragrant their blush petals are, their fruit that hangs on ’til September. Bulbs that when you plant them seem like nothing, brown little lumps, then bring their tulip petals and daffodil trumpets during the cold early spring. So here are some pictures of March flowers. Are you writing poetry, or sending it out, or getting ready for AWP? Good job. I have been struggling with poetry’s relevancy in the last week or so, I admit. It feels…frivolous. Extraneous. I know that it is good for the soul, but maybe my soul is feeling a little fractured right now.Jeannine Hall Gailey, The Apocalypse is Knocking, First Cherry Blossoms, Cats From the Past and More History Repeating
Once a fox, feeling sad, looked up at the sky and waned to be a cloud, distant from the concerns of foxes and casting only immaterial shadow over chickens. Then it began to rain and his small fox heart, no larger than a tulip, squirted water everywhere. The fox, his suffering now intense, ate a chicken and so was sad no more.Gary Barwin, Fox Fable (from a MS of Fables)
Yes, yes, I know. My promises to resume posting regularly here have been about as reliable as the Tory government’s…no, I’m not going to go there. I have the urge to blog, and to write more generally, and I suspect one of the main reasons is the utter chaos out there at the moment. So, I’m going to restrict myself to talking about poetry, and literature more generally, and birds, and history, and maybe some cricket (although, there’s not much about England that inspires me at the moment). I can’t guarantee it will be upbeat, exactly, but it will definitely be more fun than the news.Matt Merritt, I’m back (again)
s l o w l yJason Crane, haiku: 10 March 2022
lowering the volume
Next, have you read Ledger by Jane Hirshfield? If not, I highly recommend it. In fact, I did recommend it, on a recent CBC Edmonton radio program. You can click here to listen. (Alternatively you can watch me recommend another book of poetry on the CBC Ed news at 6. Just scroll to about the 28 minute mark here.
One poem in Ledger by JH begins, “All day wondering / if I’ve become useless.” And this speaks to me right now. Lord I do feel quite useless.Shawna Lemay, Even an Angel Needs Rest
We buried my father, Marvin Wolfe Barenblat z”l, on Friday. He was eighty-seven years old. He was generous and funny and opinionated. It will be a while before I really understand the spiritual impacts of the fact that that both of my parents are now gone.
There are so many stories. How he grew up in San Antonio with immigrant parents. How he met my mother. Work and travel and parties. (Everyone agrees that my parents knew how to have a good time!) The places he went, the stories he told, the bargains he struck. His gregariousness. His smile.
Mine are small stories, the stories of a youngest daughter. Just as the photos above are photos that are not necessarily representative of the whole: these photos show my parents as newlyweds, then my father and me, then my father and my child. These vignettes are the picture of his life that I can most easily paint.Rachel Barenblat, Marvin Wolfe Barenblat z”l
On the road’s verge, geese stand looking unctuous,Ann E. Michael, Synthesis
vaguely irritable as I pass them
going 50 on the route I’ve taken for decades
and this time I recall two years back, when my dad
was failing, how eagerly I sought any sign
of seasonal change—
early-flowering witch hazel, or crocuses, quince,
swells in daffodils’ green emergence
while inside myself the slow emergency of his dying
began to open from probable to imminent.
My dad sings “Sweet and Low”:Dale Favier, Sweet and Low
his doctors advised him that singing
would strengthen his voice. It’s a song from a songbook
already old when he was a boy: we’re drifting backwards,
as old men do.
His voice wanders back and forth across the notes,
hitting some by accident. We used to sing in the car,
driving home at night from a day on the mountain,
and I’d watch the snowflakes in the headlights:
they’d fall sleepily into view, and speed up
suddenly into white streaks that flickered away:
somewhere in the dark behind us
they must have settled softly to rest.
Emotional ups and downs these days with family and world. With weather and woe. Spring interrupted by snow. Books and poetry steady me, and sunshine! When I woke up today, it was 9 degrees. How will I walk in the parade? I wondered. In layers! It worked. The sun was shining, and I was toasty warm in boots, several socks, and various green and other layers, under a glittery green hat, handing out sunflower seeds for Ukraine on behalf of a candidate in the local St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In Chicago, they dyed the river green again. Here, we had a small but lively crowd, who knew to stay on the sunny side of the street. Dates and duties, tasks and meetings, appointments and worries–it all crowds my mind. Then I visit my folks, play cards, and we love each other into a state of calm. Each morning, I write a poem. Each evening, I fall asleep on the couch, reading.Kathleen Kirk, Sharin’ of the Green (and Pink and Blue)
My last AWP was in 2019 in Portland, OR and I loved it. I loved the time spent with writers, fueled by coffee and creativity and late nights talking about writing and poetry. So while this year will look a little different, I’m still hopeful I’ll get that high from being around my people. […]
I need this time with poets and writers and presses. I want to wander the book fair and have authors sign their books – last time I bought 15 books, which I felt was a reasonable amount since I had to fly home and needed to fit them all in my suitcase without it going overweight. This year, I’m driving so I’ll have no such limitations. I wonder how many I’ll buy…Courtney LeBlanc, AWP 2022
I mentioned on Facebook that my new glasses finally came in, and earlier than expected! The instant I got the text from the optometrist, I took off from work, dashed over to the eye doc’s, collected my new and glorious specs, and came home to pop out my contacts and try them on. The first thing I did was test out an old paperback poetry book that I’ve had on my list to read forever, but haven’t been able to with a 15-year old prescription. Voila! I was actually able to read the print. I wanted to cry. The new specs are so nice that I’ve even overcome my vanity enough to wear them to work a few times a week. Also, unbeknownst to me, it turns out that the frames are Kate Spade, so not only can I see, I’m also fancy. Look out world. I’m watching you—through my new, properly-prescribed lenses. I can see everything.Kristen McHenry, Lessons from the Squat Rack, Farming Simulation Hell, Glasses Glory
One of my poems has been included in the Hope Rage Sunflowers anthology to raise money for Ukraine. Like many I am shocked and saddened and have been doom scrolling the past two weeks, so it feels good to have a way to help, even in a small way.Gerry Stewart, A Way to Help Ukraine: Poetry Anthology
From the editor: Hope Rage Sunflowers, the FFS Fundraiser bookje (PDF) is out now! Please donate directly to https://ukraine-hilfe-berlin.de/spende/ Send a screenshot of your donation to firstname.lastname@example.org or in my DMs with your email & you will receive this beautiful anthology of poems & artwork.
Yesterday morning, I headed over to my church to help at the food pantry. Along the way, I stopped to get some peanut butter and jelly; the woman who runs the food pantry told me that of all the donations they get, peanut butter and jelly are the items they get the least.
I was amazed at how the food pantry has grown. We now offer used clothing and other items (some toys, some backpacks, that kind of thing). A local Girl Scout troop also runs a closet which offers trendier clothing for teenagers.
Our church has 2 fellowship halls, and the food and clothes pantry has taken up most of one of the fellowship halls. Once, this would not have been possible–we would have needed that space for something else, like Sunday School classes and fellowship/outreach (like a women’s group and a men’s group).
As I bagged food, I thought about the news stories of people driving truck loads of supplies and food into Ukraine. That is not our ministry. We have people who come to our food pantry on such a regular basis that the woman who runs the food pantry knows about food allergies. In a way that makes me sad; we all want a food pantry to be a stop-gap measure, a response to an emergency. In a way, this ministry feels like one of the more vital ones that we do as a small, neighborhood church.Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Food Pantry Portents
Their children lived, somehow, through two wars:
the first one an invasion; the second, a war of liberation.
Because they hid in the church, they know that underneath
new tile and blood-red carpet, there used to be a crack
right down the middle of the aisle. When they left
their homes, running from the rain of bombs, one of them
carried a pair of socks but forgot his shoes. Another
couldn’t explain how it came to be that he’d lifted
the rice pot off the stove, still warm and steaming.
There are ghosts inside every bell tower, or walkingLuisa A. Igloria, War Stories
the now clean hospital halls. In front of every
flagpole in every square, pigeons peck at shadows
where prisoners were lined up for execution.
Every stone: an old name, a story.
Whether we like it or not, absolutely everything we write has its origins in our identity. Even when we use a persona, a context that’s far from our own lives, a filter of fireworks or devices, we are always writing out of who we are. That process might be more or less overt, and we might well be reluctant at times to recognise it (even to ourselves) but our identity runs through our poetry as if through rock.Matthew Stewart, Writing out of who we are
Of course, over the last few years, many poets have emerged who’ve wielded their identity to terrific explicit effect – be that with an aesthetic, emotional, social or political aim. However, I also enjoy poetry that assumes, assimilates and textures its identity, using it more to enrich the genre’s capacity to create a whole new emotional world that casts fresh light on previous ones.
As a consequence, I’m especially drawn to Tamiko Dooley’s new poems on Wild Court (see here). They’re so similar yet so different, so strange yet so familiar. This is very much the effect that I seek in my own poems about life in Spain.
I just finished re-reading* Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in the context of a manuscript I’m working on. In the work-in-progress, the speaker confides in and seeks guidance from an alter ego named Gertie, similar to how Blume’s protagonist Margaret talks directly to God throughout the well known novel. “Luckily for Margaret,” as the synopsis on the back cover says, “she’s got someone to confide in… someone who always listens.”
Like Margaret, the speaker in this new manuscript has a built-in sounding board and companion. Gertie, however, isn’t any kind of god — that’s not my thing. Instead, what I’m trying to do is to bifurcate the speaker’s internal dialogue. Instead of the speaker talking to herself or to God, she’s having conversations and exchanges with an “other” (a persona: Gertie) and exploring what that may offer by way of protection, comfort and confidence.
Speaking of confidence, I’m not 100% convinced I can pull it off, but I’m following where it goes anyway. That includes consulting this terrific throwback, which I originally read when I was in middle school along with a bazillion other preteens.Carolee Bennett, “luckily for margaret”
The following is the sixth in a series of brief interviews in which one Terrapin poet interviews another Terrapin poet, one whose book was affected by the Pandemic. The purpose of these interviews is to draw some attention to these books which missed out on book launches and in-person readings. Lisa Bellamy talks with Jeff Ewing about what’s it’s like to write in multiple genres, his use of point of view, and his unique writing process. […]
Lisa: In some poems, the narrator views characters from a different perspective, as in “As the Crow Flies,” or from a third-person perspective, as in “On the Death, by Trampling, of a Man in Modoc County.” What does this change-up do artistically for you, as a writer?Diane Lockward, Terrapin Books Interview Series: Lisa Bellamy Interviews Jeff Ewing
Jeff: It’s very freeing to get away from the constant “I.” Seeing the scene from an abstracted point of view—in “As the Crow Flies”—or a third person, really does allow me to put myself at that vantage. To get a wider, more objective view of the action. The default “I” point of view of a lot of poems—mine included—does convey a certain intimacy, but it’s also constricting. Claustrophobic. I get itchy and anxious after a while. It’s clearly the point of view a writer has the most authority over and experience with, but there’s a danger of coming to see it as genuinely authoritative. As a reader, it makes me suspicious and a little resentful. Like most people I get tired of myself, and it’s a relief sometimes to break out of that.
I like being an old man, but friend,James Lee Jobe, the inescapable ‘I’ poems
I have no intention of being a quiet old man.
I am going describe everything,
The sun, the moon, the North Star,
Even boring things like my family, politics,
And the sounds that trains make at night.
My ‘I’ poems will be like death;
Inescapable. I feel another coming on me.
Even as I am just finishing this one.
Yesterday, at a NeMLA panel called “Hybrid, Feminist, & Collaborative,” the writer and artist Mary-Kim Arnold talked about “feeling like a hybrid” as a child born in Korea then adopted into a New York family. Explore her whole amazing website if you have time, but here’s one piece that literally stitches image to text in a stunning way. Anna Maria Hong, who organized this panel, read “Siren” and showed a clip from a forthcoming Bennington musical theater production of her hybrid novel H&G, which looks extraordinary. Scheduled to speak third–and read for the very first time from Poetry’s Possible Worlds!–I revised my prefatory marks on the fly, having realized some things. First, I don’t feel like a hybrid. I often feel monstrous, though, like Anna Maria’s “Siren,” particularly in moments of apparently unwomanly anger. And I’m always deeply interested in who gets monsterized and how and why. Second, I’m interested in genres and the spaces between them because I have a powerful drive to understand the rules. This comes partly from watching my immigrant mother studying to be a middle-class American; it’s probably also true that I’m an observer by temperament. Maybe even more importantly, I’m the eldest child of an alcoholic father whose moods were unpredictable, intense, sometimes violent. I needed to figure out what genre I was in every day to navigate the plot twists.
March has already had a lot of ups and downs, but that panel was a peak for me. That’s academic conferencing at its best: you’re rattling around in your own head then a good conversation rings you like a bell.Lesley Wheeler, Fairy monster godmother gets the chair
We think we create our own personalities, that we have the freedom to create our selves, but this is another lie of capitalism and (often anyway) of white supremacy. On some level Kerouac himself understood that, though he would never have framed it in those terms. I’ve been rereading his Book of Dreams (1960), an often-overlooked novel(?) in his oeuvre, and it’s a compelling text, not least for its insight about the functioning of the mind. Kerouac attacks Freud for his mere interpretation of hidden motivations (“Freudianism is a big stupid mistaken dealing with causes and conditions instead of the mysterious, essential permanent reality of Mind Essence” [Book of Dreams, 2001 edition, p. 282]), and instead (influenced by Buddhism) sees dreams as part of the same mind-matter that constructs the waking world as well as the sleeping world. I think there’s an obvious component to subconscious dreams that do lend themselves to interpretation of/connection to daily quotidian conscious life, and clearly I subscribe to a certain degree to materialist “causes and conditions,” and I’d suggest that Kerouac’s unfiltered confessions in this book are in fact open to a variety of interpretations.
But again, these dynamics are perhaps merely the surface overlay of personality. Though most of Book of Dreams is just that (the actual dreams, without attempt to explain or interpret), Kerouac at times does make comment about the nature of existence, consciousness, and art. He writes,
words, images & dream are fingers of false imagination pointing at the reality of Holy Emptiness—but my words are still many & my images stretch to the holy void like a road that has an end—It’s the ROAD OF THE HOLY VOID this writing this life, this image of regrets—— (pp. 280-81)
We can’t escape these particulars or dynamics; they are the stuff of the world and inevitably of art. We might perhaps be able to turn off the conscious mind’s investment in them only sometimes, through meditation, say (which Kerouac apparently was not very good at). We (or I) might wish that Kerouac was sometimes better at negotiating the shit that the world threw his way; the alcohol didn’t help. But before it all turned bad, and coexisting with the regrets (his or mine or everyone’s), Kerouac throughout much of his poetry (by which I mean also his prose) demonstrated tenderness for all living things, through his poetics lived deeply in the world, and elaborated an innovative style out of which good things came, and which is delightful in itself.Michael S. Begnal, On Kerouac’s Centennial
And so I stood there, staring at it,Bob Mee, EZRA POUND’S TROMBONE (SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO HAVE FUN)
For too long, in an otherwise dull
Museum, wondering if Pound
Ever played the trombone, not
Just this one, any trombone,
In all of his long, weird life.
The guide hovered ever closer
As if suspecting I’d rumbled them.
I tapped the glass to alarm her more
And, seeing her jump, moved on
To a case of prehistoric pots,
Most of which were broken.
If my nerves were sturdier,
if I could let your apocalypse talk
roll off my back,
if my favorite nightcap were plunging off a cliff
and being pulled back,
if I didn’t like to kick off my boots
and the Ultimate Fight weren’t your morning caffeine,
if you didn’t love to troll and tease me,
if I didn’t ask, for the sake of beauty and continuity,Armageddon Blues
Is there time to slice the cucumber,
This is a terrible thing to say out loud, but here it is; judge me as you wish: I’ve found myself in a reading quagmire of not-very-good poetry.
These are collections that have risen in contests to be accorded the winning spot. By not-very-good, I mean, the poems are, for example, boringly obvious, drearily strident, frustatingly short-falling of what they seem to be reaching for, inert, so coded to some inner key that they’re inaccessible. Yes, there are some cunning turns of phrase here and there, some good sound work, some lively choices of images or words, some poems that work, by which I mean, transport me beyond themselves. There may be, and I’m being generous here, a chapbook-length (like 18-20 pages) of decent poems in each of the three full-length (and by that I mean, over 75 pages…) collections I’m referring to here. Maybe.
What am I missing? Is it just down to personal taste? Am I reading too fast, reading too crabby? Is my aesthetic too damned narrow? Do I just not know good poetry when I read it?
It brings me huge distress, because I feel I have to question what I think I know about poetry. And I have to question what I think I know about my own poetry, and how to make it better.Marilyn McCabe, I’m on the dark side of the moon; or, On the Perils of Reading Poetry
I’m learning it’s quite easy to become the hermit I’ve always been, sleeping and working strange hours. I am getting a lot done. Getting the shop ready for the update next week and keeping up with daily freelance projects. Catching up on things like orders and author batches and getting new layouts polished off in the afternoons. Even with a lot of stuff to accomplish in any given day, it is more purposeful and less chaos, which has changed so much about how I feel and done wonders for my general baseline anxiety levels. Even printing is more orderly and systematic and much less tearful than it used to be (this has to do with some outsourcing, but even in the interiors are less stress-inducing when I am not constantly past my deadlines already). I did not expect quite this much of a change, but I should have.
As for creative work, I’ve stalled out a bit on my collage series, not really liking the results just yet, but need to spend time with the poems they accompany to get unstick. The poems I am happy with, the art, not so much. I did manage to finish up what will hopefully be the final proof on animal, vegetable.. monster, and barring any significant issues, should have it under wraps a couple weeks into April. Which of course, means I now turn my attention to promo and trailers and such.Kristy Bowen, hermit life and abroad
trying on dream clothes
that of course always fit well
and are tailored to perfection
I talked jazz with the assistant
there are worse ways to pass a night
than buying threads
but you wake
unsatisfied with your tactile wardrobe
no matter how hard you tryPaul Tobin, A VAST CITY INSIDE YOUR HEAD
on successive nights
the tailors shop eludes you
in that vast city inside your head
The latest from Cobourg, Ontario poet, writer, editor and publisher Stuart Ross is The Book of Grief and Hamburgers (Toronto ON: ECW Press, 2022), a blend of essay, memoir and prose poem that moves its slow way through and across an accumulation of grief and personal loss, attending the personal in a way far more vulnerable than he has allowed himself prior. As the back cover attests, The Book of Grief and Hamburgers was composed “during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, shortly after the sudden death of his brother – leaving him the last living member of his family – and anticipating the death of his closest friend after a catastrophic diagnosis, this meditation on mortality is a literary shiva, a moving act of resistance against self-annihilation, and an elegy for those Stuart loved.” The form of lyric homage and recollection certainly isn’t new, although one might think it not as prevalent as it might be, and I can only think of a handful of examples in Canadian writing over the past thirty years, such as George Bowering’s book of prose recollections, The Moustache, Memories of Greg Curnoe (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1993), James Hawes’ writing Peter Van Toorn through his new chapbook Under an Overpass, a Fox (Montreal QC: Turret House Press, 2022), Erín Moure writing her late friend Paul through Sitting Shiva on Minto Avenue, by Toots (Vancouver BC: New Star Books, 2017) [see my review of such here], or even Sharon Thesen writing Angela Bowering through her Weeping Willow (Vancouver BC: Nomados, 2005), a chapbook-length sequence that later landed in her full-length The Good Bacteria(Toronto ON: House of Anansi, 2006).
The difference in the examples I’ve cited, of course, is that each of these were composed around a single person, whereas Ross explores the layering and accumulation of grief itself, one that has built up over the years through the deaths of his parents, and a variety of friends, mentors and contemporaries including David W. McFadden, Richard Huttel, John Lavery, Nelson Ball and RM Vaughan. While this particular project was triggered by the sudden and unexpected loss of Ross’ brother Barry in 2020, twenty years after the death of their brother, Owen, and through hearing of the terminal cancer diagnosis of his longtime friend, the Ottawa poet Michael Dennis (one shouldn’t overlook, as well, the simultaneous loss of their beloved dog, Lily), all of these relationships are referenced, explored and layered through an attempt, through the narrative, to come to some kind of, if not conclusion, an acknowledgment of how best to allow for this space, and to move forward.rob mclennan, Stuart Ross, The Book of Grief and Hamburgers
Outside my window, there’s a murder of crows that would rather you call them a choir.
For a small fee, they’ll sing a song to keep your heart from exploding.
The war of the week channel shows me that those once considered the salt of the earth can sometimes turn into quite the lousy seasoning for your slice of life.
Rather than reaching for another snack, I keep all fingers crossed.
Perhaps good fortune will arrive any moment at the local greyhound station.Rich Ferguson, On the War of the Week Channel
Not surprisingly, the terrible destruction in Ukraine is on my mind right now, a bloody livestream in my head and heart as I go about my safe, ordinary life here–feeding my cats, doing the laundry, shopping for groceries, going for a walk. I was at one extraordinary event, a reading via zoom earlier in the week, with Ukrainian poets and their English translators–and 850 people there to watch and listen. There was, not surprisingly, a lot of weeping, and some of mine was for the gift of being in that group, sharing the grief and the beauty.
With Ukrainian citizens arming themselves and joining the fight, it’s hard to draw a clean line between them and designated soldiers, but I’ve when I read any battle story I’m drawn to the lives of civilians, the impact of war on them. It only occurred to me today that might be because I am one of those affected civilians. I was born during World War II, and my father was away in the South Pacific for the first three years of my life–something that shaped my childhood and has left ripples through my adult life. My family didn’t suffer any of the horrendous effects of having war on their home ground, but they were affected by it nonetheless. Wars touch everyone in some way. Those of us who write poems have to find our own vantage points, what only we can say about the unfolding events.Sharon Bryan, Civilian Life in Wartime (via Bethany Reid)
Despite the doom-and-gloom-scrolling I do from my Hong Kong apartment, I’ve found solace recently in writing more light verse in response to the news. Reading, writing, and publishing light verse in response to current events has kept my spirits buoyed — knowing that my words are in the company of other wonderful writers of light verse who are staring into the face of tragedy, loss, suffering, and war and responding with humor and wit offers a strange kind of comfort.
It is easy to watch the news and despair. However, we all do what we can and give the world what we can. At this moment, what I can offer is not something weighty, but something light and witty. Basically, writing in response to the news has both helped me return to the comfort of the writing desk and kept me going.Scot Slaby, Wagging news doggerel
some of my favourite movie postersAma Bolton, Lines from my Twitter feed #2
find a healthier balance
make things right
world-leading and deliberate cruelty
my new collection
women cannot send their sons to die
every day is a memorial day
increase the vegetable patch
exclusive member deals
Each week we talk about how to recognize and respond to the earliest hints of conflict, from the interpersonal to the global. We begin to see myriad creative, collaborative ways to respond. We also begin to recognize some of the things we’ve heard about, witnessed, or done ourselves have actually been examples of nonviolence. At the end of each session, I ask participants to share stories of peace in action. These stories strengthen our bones, build our world anew.
One day a woman describes driving home when she comes across three young teens hunched with menace over a fourth. One holds a length of wood at his side and it appears he’s used it on that boy. She finds herself pulling the car over, standing at her door, yelling leave him alone.
All four look up, incredulous. Why you stop for him? one boy jeers. She comes closer till the cowering boy stands up straight, his face impassive, and walks away.
She says, Does it matter who I stop for? Next time it might be you.Laura Grace Weldon, Peace In Action
Any two thingsTom Montag, TEN OLD MONK POEMS (57)
the old monk says,
once you see both.
baffledJim Young [no title]
along the long groynes
the sea’s roar