Poetry Blog Digest 2024, 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 at Via Negativa or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack (where the posts might be truncated by some email providers).

This week, the summer travel season is underway, with blue domes, a country of murderers, the Essex muse, an economy based on beauty, and much more. Enjoy.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 18

river in November light between bare woods and mountain

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 at Via Negativa or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack (where the posts might be truncated by some email providers).

A shorter digest than usual this week, reflecting I suppose a general exhaustion among poetry bloggers after NaPoWriMo and the winding down of the academic year. Those who did blog were in a reflective mood, writing about self-acceptance for poets, points of connection, finding balance, considering the reader, and more. Enjoy.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 13

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack.

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

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Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 9

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack.

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

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Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 4

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 edition begins and ends with small trees, and features tongue fire, a dandelion seed, a shirt soaked with life, little pooping monsters, and magic shoes, among other signs and wonders. Enjoy.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 3

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, inclement weather kept many poets inside, blogging furiously. Some common themes include the winter itself; great poets and poems; and songs as poetry and vice versa. Enjoy and share.

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Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 1

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack.

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

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Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 23

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: summering, fathers, writing by hand, homecomings, and more. Enjoy.


These lovely, almost-summer days have gone on and on, and I have been outside whenever I can be, reading on a wooden glider draped with an ivy-patterned comforter. Meanwhile, the ground was parched and the creek has twice gone dry. Until today! Sprinkle, then steady light rain, episodic, but enough to make all the plants stand up happy and straight, with some of them appearing to grow an inch in a day. The first day lilies have opened, making it seem to be true summer! 

Swimming started this week–oh, how wonderful! That, too, makes summer seem here to stay…though it doesn’t stay, and already I am aware how swiftly it will go by. I lap swim early, wash the chlorine out of my hair, and walk to work. Sometimes at work, during our 15-minute breaks, we take walks around town. Friday, we walked to the university library and saw a ceramics display, 100 pieces based on poems. I love my life.

In it, this lucky life, I am balancing my sorrow. And some ongoing stress. I am grateful I can do so. And glad that these clematis blooms opened on the fence, despite the weeks of drought. Some vines did not even produce buds. But seeds I planted at the re-mounted little free library did come up. More to be glad of and grateful for!

Kathleen Kirk, Rain, Finally

I dreamed the other night of discovering a sonnet by a woman writer whose name I only knew vaguely. Someone had taped it up on a door frame. I don’t remember the words, just that I found it moving and skillful–all one enjambed sentence, shorter than usual lines, hitting the rhymes and iambics in a satisfying way. I guess I wrote the sonnet, really–I am a woman writer whose name some regular poetry readers only know vaguely–to whatever extent the poem existed at all. Talk about ephemera! A poem “read” by one person, in a dream.

I haven’t been writing poems in my waking life, although I’ve been rereading H.D.’s poetry and researching what scholars say about her use of Tarot cards. Next week I’m taking a family vacation in midcoast Maine, and on the way home I’ll get dropped off in New Haven, CT, so I can spend a few days with her papers at Yale’s Beinecke library. We know H.D.’s book-sources for the Tarot but not what decks she used, it seems, at least when she started, around 1930, mailing readings from England to her childhood friend Viola Jordan, who was by then raising children in New Jersey. H.D. scholar Susan Stanford Friedman quotes a 1941 letter to Jordan in which H.D. wrote, “I got one pack in Vienna and have an English one with rather silly pictures” (202). The pictures on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck that was widely available don’t seem silly to me, although another very knowledgeable H.D. scholar tells me the RWS deck is likely, given how widely available it was then. These questions might not lead to recoverable information, in the end. There were lots of European decks floating around because Tarot was a game as well as a divination practice. Ephemera.

I don’t know what I’m doing with this project, really, other than following curiosities and seeing if there’s an essay in there somewhere, probably a hybrid scholarly/ personal one, as in Poetry’s Possible Worlds. There are H.D. connections in Maine, too, so in a way I’ll be bringing these thoughts on vacation. She sometimes summered as a child in the Casco Islands near Portland, a landscape that strongly influenced her first collection, Sea Garden, although she casts her references in that book as Greek. I won’t get to the Casco Islands but we’re going to visit Camden, Maine–Millay territory–if only for a few hours.

There’s a great verb: “summering.” Dreamy, with a wealthy scent. I don’t think I’ve ever done it, but maybe I should post the word on the frame of my office door for inspiration.

Lesley Wheeler, Summering, ephemera

We proceed error by error in our writing rooms, in our studies and in our studios. But also, as Cixous talks about, there is the ecstasy of technique. There is the endless practice, the attention to detail, to form, to the mechanics. The beforehand is work work work. The truth of a piece lies to some extent there. There is the knowing, the accumulating of knowledge regarding the materials, the history of art-making broadly and then super specifically pertaining to the work at hand. And then there is the letting go of all that you know once it’s been absorbed so deeply. It’s not something you hold but something you are. And maybe this sounds a bit flaky. But that’s the point where the beauty leaks, the light seeps, the mystery glows.

Shawna Lemay, Tornados and Truth in the Atelier

I always make final choices about line and sound while sitting at my laptop, reading the poem aloud to myself over and over again, making changes in service of the rhythm, music, and pacing. Here you can see several places with assonance (vowel sounds, like the long “I” in pines and fire); consonance (consonant sounds, like the “L” in smell and soil); and alliteration (consonant sounds specifically at the beginning of word, like the “L” in little and lashes).

I broke the line to create pauses where I wanted them, slowing the poem down, and to build tension and suspense. Look at the line endings I’ve marked with arrows. Here the reader has questions that they must read on to have answered. Some lines I liked on their own because they have their own integrity and meaning apart from the rest of the sentence. For example, “I’m thinking I don’t want to die” means something on its own, so that line feels charged. When the reader reaches the end of the sentence on the next line—“in a room”—the meaning is clarified, even transformed.

Maggie Smith, Behind-the-Scenes Look: “A Room Like This”

Mid-flow, everything screeches to a halt. Mid-pentameter “doth” and I am thinking, what the Hell am I doing? Sacrilege to mess with Shakespeare. Where do I get off?

How do I marry the archaic language to a heightened, but accessible language? And then there is the fact that my lines just beg to run into hexameters. Alexandrines. I have no idea why. But I am tired of fighting it.

So be it.

But then there is the question of whether I should toss out all of the names and give the characters new ones. I find myself giving Regan’s lines to Goneril to better build their spines and distinguish one from the other, as I see them in my story. I’m thinking someone in the audience is going to be scrolling through their memory at that point, instead of following the dialogue.

On the other hand, why not. Regan has digested Cornwall. Kent, the Fool. This is not an exercise in paraphrasing doctrine. More like sampling. And drawing from the well that is deeper than even Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s passages as Easter eggs in something new. Nothing really new here in terms for “stealing”.

Ren Powell, Crisis of Confidence

A friend said the other day she’d seen no bumblebees in her garden this year, another wondered why there was so little buzzing in hers. 

Often in my mind when I’m on the allotment is self-taught French scientist, Jean Henri Fabre, whose Book of Insects is probably in my lifetime top ten. Observe,  he urges, learn. 

Fabre bought a patch of barren land in Provence and on it studied insects. He replanted thyme and lavender which had been dug up for vines, and from then on wrote about bees, beetles, the praying mantis, wasps….

Jackie Wills, A man, his land and its insects

Eventually the group ran its course. Matt became instead my unofficial, unpaid mentor. We wrote to each other frequently, and we would speak on the phone once a week too. He would sometimes ring me up to read me a poem he’d just written. When he eventually got a computer, he’d email them, then ring me up for my thoughts. Over time, our relationship changed from great poet and mentor, to one in which we [were] more equal and would help edit each other’s new poems. He had a small circle of poets he would show his work to, and I was one of them. He said I had the gift for putting my finger on just where the problem was, but this was because he I had absorbed so much from his ever-generously given edits he’d suggested on my own work.

In 1996, I edited a festschrift for him, which was no mean undertaking, because it had 83 contributors and was all done by snail mail. I had to type up the whole book myself, alongside a full-time teaching post and being a mum to two young children. But it was a labour of love, for by this time, after a friendship of 23 years, there was a deep, close and loving relationship between us.

This only deepened further over time. I was a regular visitor to his house and I also went into college on many occasions. I used to attend readings with him, because he wanted company. We travelled to Anne Stevenson’s 70th birthday party together and stayed at the same B&B. When he retired from full time lecturing, he was even more keen for me to visit, and we enjoyed going for a swim together in his daughter Cathie’s swimming pool. He would always email me afterwards and thank me for coming.

He dedicated one of his critical books to me, as well as a pamphlet. I was heartbroken when he died of complications after a heart-bypass operation we were hoping would make a ‘new man’ of him, as he himself said. It was 2009, the year I left full time teaching and was hoping to be able to spend more time with him. Sadly, that was not to be.

I learned a lot from Matt’s poems and from Matt himself. I learned working class people could be poets, that Latinate lexis could be mixed with local dialect, and never to be ashamed of my education. He wasn’t an influence over my work, but I learned how to edit my own poems without remorse.

Angela Topping, A brief history of my friendship with Matt Simpson (1936-2009)

I had set aside the summer writing time to work on my middle-grade novel draft that has been languishing on my jumpdrive for a few years now, but after deleting the horrible prologue, I’m not sure I have the energy to go back to it just yet (besides that, novels are just a different beast)

Instead I’ve been thinking about pantoums and sonnets and sestinas. Formal poetry was scarcely taught to me–not once in high school, maybe very breezily in undergrad, and a hard week in my MFA (me, crying in my professor’s office, telling her I was simply too stupid and redneck to write in meter).

I am interested in form, but struggle to hear meter. Is it the way I talk? The Southern accents I grew up with? What I read or don’t read? Though I do read a number of formal poets.

Renee Emerson, thoughts on form

While I’ve struggled with reviewing today, and I’ve managed about 15 minutes all week to look at a draft of poem (and that was mainly about cutting the repetition of conjunctions out), there has been some positive poetry news this week. I’ve been putting off approaching the various writing societies out there for readings. I may have mentioned I have a book due out in November (and don’t worry, I will mention it a few more times in the coming months), but having now 85% sorted the launch of my book (Venue sorted, readers almost all sorted, setlist started…I just need to sort the actual books, outfit choices, a haircut, flyers, invites, etc), I’ve got to think about getting the book out there and promoting it.

These things don’t sell themselves, so having written to a few places that are within striking distance of Beckenham I now find myself with two gigs booked already for 2024..and one more TBC. Ok, so the two booked ones are in January and September, so I’m not sure it constitutes a tour, but it is incredibly pleasing to see that people who have no idea who I am (as far as I know) prepared to have me come and read to them.

Mat Riches, Let’s get critical…

Our regional drought continues. I sometimes entertain the idea that the universe is telling me I might as well consider moving to the Southwest–where my children now reside–since the Mid-Atlantic area currently has less rainfall, higher temperatures, and lower humidity than where they are. Granted, this is likely to be a temporary situation; but for the present, I get the chance to walk on crunchy grass and hard soil daily and see how I like it. And to see blue skies for days on end, and see how I like that. What next?

Speculating on “what next” comes rather naturally to me, a reflective sort of human being; but making goals and ambitions toward accomplishment–not so much. Lately, though, the years-ahead thinking has been moved the forefront of my thoughts. It’s all those dang Medicare and Social Security and AARP mailings, in part, and my peers and I heading into the so-called retirement years. Inescapable: the conversations crop up around the dinner party table, while having coffee with a pal, or on a phone call with siblings. People keep asking me what my new goals are. I suppose, having reached the age Social Security (used to) kick in, I was expected to come up with new goals? Must have missed that memo.

Goal: the word is of uncertain origin, says Etymology Online, but appears in the 14th c “with an apparent sense of ‘boundary, limit.’ Perhaps from Old English *gal ‘obstacle, barrier,’ a word implied by gælan ‘to hinder’ and also found in compounds (singal, widgal). That would make it a variant or figurative use of Middle English gale ‘a way, course’…” And there’s the further meaning of a stake that signals the end point of a game. Interesting that goal can be an obstacle, a limitation, an end-point, or a pathway.

Ann E. Michael, Goals, sort of

A high-backed, slatted chair
as throne in a long-stemmed garden.

A city beyond it with glass, suits, revelers:
It changes by the hour.

Cars bead the bridge, a laudable
organization if only we knew what it was.

Jill Pearlman, Waiting for June

We were really fortunate. I don’t want to romanticize this moment. Lots of people lost a lot. Some people died. I almost used the term “terrible beauty” above to describe it but no, it wasn’t beautiful. There’s a sense of relief that comes when you realize that you’ve come through mostly okay and so have your people, but that’s not beauty, terrible or otherwise. It’s just life.

But you can find humor in the way you view these terrifying storms. And so now, given that hurricane season officially started just a few days ago, I bring you this poem, “Problems with Hurricanes” by Victor Hernández Cruz.

Hernández Cruz was born in Puerto Rico, moved to New York when he was young, and has been a distinguished member of the Nuyorican movement for decades now. I have loved this poem of his in particular for years in part because of the way he grasps the absurd power of the storm by treating it was great seriousness. He does this by putting most of the poem in the voice of a campesino, a peasant farmer.

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it’s not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I’ll tell you he said:
it’s the mangoes, avocados,
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

And if you’ve never been in a storm like this, never experienced a tornado or derecho (for the record, I’ve been through those too and would rather a hurricane), then you might think “that’s crazy, of course it’s the wind and the noise and the water.” What damage could a banana do? The answer is that anything can do a lot of damage if It hits you at 90 miles per hour.

Brian Spears, It’s Hurricane Season Y’all

The planet excising parts of itself as a cancer–fairly standard imagery now.  The planet practicing plastic surgery has a nice alliteration.  The planet as feeling trapped in a wrong body and excising the parts that don’t fit–forest fire as corrective surgery–perhaps this imagery is too transgressive?

But maybe we want transgressive imagery.  Maybe in an era of apocalypse, transgressive imagery is what we need to shake us out of our complacency.

Living in the most southeastern part of Florida, cleaning up flood after flood after hurricane after flood, I always wondered how people could be complacent.  Now that I live in the mountains, where climate risk is much lower (not true of all mountains, I know, but true of mine),  I understand complacency.  Yesterday, it took me a few hours to wonder if the haze outside might be more dangerous than I thought.  I looked up a different chart from a different government agency, one that measures fire risk to lung health.  Our particulate levels weren’t particularly good, but for those of us without breathing issues, it was fair.

I looked up my old address in DC.  This morning, the code is purple.  I am glad I am not there.  My air quality here in the NC mountains is green.

A new apocalypse, a new metric to be learned, new charts to follow, new numbers rising and falling.  But don’t turn your back to the ocean, which is always rising, and faster than we’ve been told.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Apocalypse in Flames with Tint of Ocean

I can’t stop the dog writing a book on the history of dogs
(It’s still in the research stage but I haven’t the heart to interfere.)
The dog insists on silence while he’s working.
We tiptoe around him, communicate with an elaborate
Selection of signs, try to avoid boiling the kettle.
The sound on the television is muted.

Bob Mee, A POEM WRITTEN WHILE UPPER CLASS POLITICIANS AND THEIR FAWNING ACCOLYTES SPOUT LIES ON A SUNDAY MORNING TV SHOW

In what has already become a somewhat forlorn attempt to arrest my book-buying urges, I thought I would, at long last, take up book-borrowing from Rotherham Library. I’ve been a peripatetic but often prolific library-user over the years since I was allowed to join Old Malden Library when I was six, so it’s a wonder, really, that it took me two years of living in Rotherham before I availed myself of the local treasures to be had. That’s right, treasures. In my experience, every library has them, and much serendipity can be gained by stumbling upon them. […]

As in all public libraries, the ‘Poetry’ section is especially random. But I came across Helen Dunmore’s penultimate collection, The Malarkey (2012), which was a bit of a curate’s egg for me. But when she was on form, she was a brilliant poet, e.g. in the strangely chilling, NPC-winning title-poem and, especially, in the remarkable ‘Barclays Bank, St Ives’, in which she framed – with her unerring, almost-mystical eye – what are presumably the bank’s customers:

Old men with sticks and courteous greeting
who have learned the goodness of days
and give freely the hours it takes
to reach the fathomless depth of the pipe’s tamped bowl
or the corolla of that daffodil
damply unfolding [. . .]

It’s a true exemplar of how poetic magic can be conjured from unlikely material.

Then there are university libraries. I suspect I’ve written before on this blog about the kid-in-a-toyshop wonder I experienced when I went to university and discovered that its library contained every poetry collection and novel I’d ever wanted to read but hadn’t managed, in those pre-internet days, to track down. There was also the University of London library in the superb Art Deco Senate House – used for the Ministry of Information during the war and, thanks largely to Orwell’s first wife working there, the model for the Ministry of Truth in 1984 – in which I wrote my (dreadful) dissertation; and the library at Essex University, into and out of the paternoster lift of which I was wholly incapable of swanning and instead clambered with Stan Laurel-ish inelegance.  

Matthew Paul, On library going

In relation to music, people sometimes talk about hauntology, about the ghosts of imagined futures haunting the present, in the form of musical styles from the past and the technology used to produce them, a nostalgia for a future that never came to pass. Could the same be said to apply to poetry? Movements in the arts don’t change simply because it’s ‘time for a change’ but because the world changes. The brighter future many saw to be promised by the ideas, social movements and technological advances of the twentieth century has not yet materialised. If poets in 2023 still find themselves writing poetry that would not have seemed out of place forty years ago, it may be because they still find themselves working, in many ways, in a similar milieu.

Dominic Rivron, Hauntology in Poetry

Or maybe you’ve got good omen bones, enjoy the taste of homecooking bones.

Bones glowing like a Van Gogh nightlight. Bones doubling as billyclubs to pummel away those blues bones.

Open-road bones, home-sweet-home bones. Dream bones, tree bones.

Rich Ferguson, 206 Bones

Today, I was thinking how dare the world celebrate Father’s Day and Mother’s Day so carelessly close together. Especially here at the top of the summer, where I feel like I am finally climbing out of a dark hole. And yet there it is. In the months after my mother’s death, I wrote an entire book of poems. I don’t have the urge to do so for my dad, though the home improvements series references parental losses more generally. Really, my father and I’s relationship was far less fraught with the stuff poetry is made of, though maybe it’s just a different kind of poetry I don’t really write. […]

Perhaps, it’s a book already written–my love of horror that charts so many projects, but particularly DARK COUNTRY is all him. As is perhaps my reading and writing habits in general. I am thankfully a little less shell-shocked than I was all of 2018..maybe because it’s easier somehow to lose the second parent than it is the first? Or is it that we were there with him in the last moments? His illness and death came on and went out even more suddenly than my mom’s. He was there and then gone in a matter of a couple weeks I have often debated in darker moments whether it was better to be there in the final moments or to not to be there in the final moments. I’ve decided both were just their own special kind of horrible. At the very least, my dad does not appear in dreams thinking he is still alive. He doesn’t appear in my dreams at all, though my mother still knocks around from time to time. But then again, his absence is another kind of sadness.

Kristy Bowen, the year without fathers

It’s been slow-going to say the least.

And for that slowness, I am so grateful. I can’t believe, reading back through the years and my process in these many entries, that I am finally at a place where I can say that truthfully, but I am. I am grateful that the agent didn’t sign me. I am grateful that I put the book away many times. I am grateful for the publishers who passed on it saying it was “lovely but too quiet” or “memoir is impossible to sell without a large platform” or “you can write but it’s clear you’re too close to this subject to be objective.” (That last one stung the most and was also the most correct.)

I am grateful that the old saw, “it only takes one YES,” turned out to be true with CLASH–a publisher that has seen and is excited about my vision for the book– and that it turned out to be true at a time in my life when I am no longer feeling frantic about the project. I am no longer desperate to write a book that will honor or memorialize my father out of some sense of writerly/daughterly obligation. The book is not about (and never was, really, about) my father.

Sheila Squillante, Sustenance, Redux

In a similar tone, ‘The Acceptance’ concludes with the word ‘Welcome’ being signed. But the 30 lines preceding this hark back to that ‘complicated man’ (a phrase from ‘Dementia’, from The Perseverance), the poet’s father. Though dead for several years now, he continues to haunt his son’s dreams and a number of these new poems. In ‘Every Black Man’, the ‘dark dreadlocked Jamaican father’ meets his prospective, English mother-in-law for the first time. He’s already drunk, there is shouting, he lashes out, she racially insults him: they never meet in the same room again. The father’s ‘heartless sense of humour’ is turned into a slow blues: ‘I think that’s how he handled pain, drink his only tutor’ (‘Heartless Humour Blues’). And the man’s ‘complication’ is reaffirmed in the poem, ‘Arose’, in which, talking to his embarrassed son, the father boasts of the great sex had with the boy’s mother, but then is touchingly remembered, calling out her name: ‘Rose? And he said it like something in him / grew towards the light.’

But All The Names Given also pays more fulsome tribute to Antrobus’ mother. In ‘Her Taste’, despite her conventional, English, religious background, she drops out, joins a circus (literally, I think!), has various relationships, and eventually gets pregnant by Seymour, the ‘complicated man’ from Jamaica, who left her to raise the children. Thirty years on, she’s defiant, independent, ‘holding her head higher at seventy’. We see her leafing through a scrapbook of her past, ‘rolling a spliff on somebody’s balcony’ or again, ‘in church reading Bertrand Russell’s ‘Why I’m Not a Christian’.’ Despite such moments, the maternal portrait does not quite possess the vivid distinctiveness of the paternal one. But, with the benefit of the passing years, Antrobus can now write, ‘On Being A Son’, in which he unreservedly praises Rose in her neediness, her self-sufficiency, her helplessness with IT, her helpfulness in so much else. He concludes, channelling her voice: ‘mother / dyes her hair, / don’t say greying / say sea salt / and cream’.

Martyn Crucefix, ‘The Man Overstanding’ – on Raymond Antrobus’ ‘All The Names Given’

Was it impetuous, inconsiderate, almost arrogant? Was it an opportunity deliberately contrived, a portal jimmied open, a shaft of light dragged through it, not to see but to make shadows dance? Wanting to say it all — without knowing what ‘it’ was, what ‘all’ might contain and what ‘saying’ would beget — to write without a plan, with trepidation, without an endgame, with a surfeit of angst, is, even at this age, either stupidity or violence. Very likely, both.

But it had to be done. Not because it was unique. Not because it was the most terrible thing in the world. Not because it almost killed me. But, because it was ordinary. Because it happened. And because I survived the way ordinary people survive ordinary things — with ordinary difficulty.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Interlude (42)

Someone on Twitter this week talked about how depressed she felt after her first book came out. I tweeted back something like: “That’s normal, you’ve got it all built up in your head so there’s inevitably let-down, book launches (now more than ever before) take so much effort on the part of the author—social media, readings, constant promotion. It is tiring.” And those things are the truth. Flare, Corona is my sixth book of poetry, and my eighth book altogether—but you never really get used to it. It never gets easier. Even if you have a great press, even if you’re totally healthy, even if you’re not coming into year three of a pandemic.

See the goldfinches in that picture. One of them is about to get off his perch—the other is mid-flight. You get the sense these birds are putting in a lot of effort. If you’re mid-flight, you’re thinking about your destination—if you’re just launching, you’re thinking about how you’re going to make it. It’s sort of like that with books.  There’s the book launch—maybe a party with friends or with your publisher—a few readings, a few reviews, maybe even good ones. Maybe you sell a fair number of books. Then the excitement fades, and guess what? You’ve launched, but you’ve still got work in front of you. My first poetry book still has readers, believe it or not—and it was published in 2006, the publisher changed hands, and I don’t even know if you can buy it through regular channels anymore. The point is, after the three months of book launch activities have faded, the book goes on. Sometimes you get tired. Sometimes—and this is completely normal—you feel discouraged that the book didn’t do as well as you’d hoped.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, A Week of Dentists, Downtime and Summertime Rain: The Ups (and Downs) of New Books

I’ve been a letter-writer since childhood; since first I felt confident enough to summon words that would magically describe my inner world (more than the little events of my life, which interested me far less) to anyone willing to read them. I wrote to my great-aunts, to peers I found in the “pen-pal wanted” section of the periodicals I read, to the few friends I’d made during our summer holidays at the Adriatic seaside: more than anything, this was perhaps an excuse to indulge in an inner monologue necessary to understand myself and the world by relating them to others.

I loved the feeling of the ink flowing on the paper through my fountain pen, of words gliding through my fingers to become materialised thought on stationery. 

As happened for many, my epistolary habits decreased with the advent of computers, e-mails, the Internet, mainly because people stopped writing me back, but I never quite lost my enthusiasm for the written (written, as opposite to printed) word, the scent and feel of various kinds of paper – nor my notion of letters as papery birds. I somehow always envisioned them, and still do, as intricately folded aeroplanes in the shape of cranes, sparrows, swallows, gulls, for how else could they reach their destination, if not by flight?

When someone very dear to me was suddenly and unexpectedly jailed, shortly before Covid held the entire world captive, written letters became once more my only possibility to reach the person I so desperately needed to talk to – this time, not to develop my own thoughts and ideas, but to keep him, and myself, alive. A prison sentence always extends to everyone involved, not only the inmate.

I resuscitated my paper birds, and sent them on an uncertain journey across the North Sea, from where I lived to where he was locked up, and along with the 243 letters I would write – one for each day he would spend in prison – poems would come to me as well; poems that were probably what my letters had been before: a way of understanding what was happening, and of coping with it.

Drop-in by Alexandra Fössinger (Nigel Kent)

I believe that preserving the human component is not only necessary in order to save art or to show that there is something essential and inalienable about the human experience. Of course that is true. But I also believe it is the act of writing itself that is so very precious and worth saving.

It makes me quite sad to think of a new generation who may never keep a private diary, kids who may never turn to writing as a source of knowledge, self-discovery, privacy and solace. Why write, when there are programs everywhere that can get the job done for us?

As you all know well, writing is not about getting the job done. It is not yet another task to complete, a form to fill out, a set of data to input. Writing is a best friend when we’ve needed one, a pathway into ourselves when we could find no other way through. I don’t need to go on. You, my dear readers, all know exactly what I mean. That’s why you’re here. Each one of you knows how much writing, the act itself, has given you over the years. And you know I’m not just talking about lit mag credentials. I’m talking about really given you, whether you’ve published a single word or millions.

With all these programs doing the writing for them, will the next generation know the joy and power of the act of writing?

Becky Tuch, How should writers & editors handle AI submissions?

The decision whether to use a contraction (e.g. who is or who’s) might seem insignificant at first sight, but like any syntactic choice, it’s pivotal to how a poem works. As a consequence, it’s one of the first things this poetic geek notices when reading a poet’s work for the first time, taking it as something of a signpost to how they treat language, to their love of detail.

First off, one thing seems clear: we should never turn our back on any resource when attempting to achieve poetic effects. There’s no fundamentalism along the lines of always going either for the full or abbreviated form. Instead, the strongest poets seem very aware of the importance of their choice in each case.

Matthew Stewart, To contract, or not to contract, that is (or that’s!) the question…

For instance, fiddlehead
              fern seems identical to nail;
and the word for coconut resembles 
              the word for being discovered,
exposed— it all depends on 
              the accent mark—whether
it is acute, or grave, or circumflex.
              The cow in the field perhaps
thinks it grazes on the breast
               of the earth while underfoot,
a snail undertakes its epic journey.
              Two eyelash marks can help
tell apart lover from friend. 

Luisa A. Igloria, Diacritics

I’m coming out of the deep woods, twice in a week. How’s about that huh?

First this Wednesday for a pre-press fair reading (often held on Friday night but a changed up time slot and venue this year.) and then again on Satuday afternoon at the Jack Purcell community centre where I’ll have a table, or more exactly, a half table. Come and chat. Come and trade or buy, or bring me snacks.

Wednesday the 14th, I’ll be reading from 2 or 3 new chapbooks. I’ll be reading with writers I enjoy which will be a particular delight. Dave Currie, Jennifer Baker, Vera Hadzic and rob mclennan. I am something of a completist getting all the writings of these people.

Pearl Pirie, Public Appearances

I’m struck by the poems in If I Could Give You a Line (Akron OH: The University of Akron Press, 2023), the first I’ve seen but the second collection by Rhode Island poet Carrie Oeding, following Our List of Solutions (42 Miles Press, 2011). If I Could Give You a Line is a collection of poems borne out of a landscape, set as a book of cartography that seeks meaning through placement and mapmaking, examined through sentences. “A man walks through a field and makes a line.” the sequence “THE MAKING OF THINGS” begins, ‘’It is made of nothing but breath, // legs, the willingness of soft grasses. The failure of pencils. // The success of pencils. The phrases that failed you, // but you still have a body. // It is a field of wheat and blindfolded children.” I’m amazed at how Oeding composes moments through which her poems transcend themselves, such as the “blue, blue, blue” offering of the short poem “I KEPT A VOICE IN MY PEACOCK,” the first half of which reads: “It said it wasn’t a peacock. It was a map. / It said it was meant to be read. I read my peacock / and got lost. Peacocks don’t roam. I got lost on very little. / I wanted more, so I left my voice. I didn’t have any / plumage, so I shouted blue, blue, blue, and hoped someone would notice / I was doing all of this without a voice. I hoped someone would notice.” Her poems are composed as extended sentences, stretched-out thoughts that accumulate into lyric prose via deceptively-straightforward narratives. “I forget the line is simple,” she writes, further along the extended sequence “THE MAKING OF THINGS,” “but then remember the line is simple.”

rob mclennan, Carrie Oeding, If I Could Give You a Line

One of the opening poems in If I Could Give You a Line begins with my obsession with artist Richard Long’s A Line Made by Walking.  Visual art is a major influence in If I Could Give You a Line, and this particular work excited me for how much it said and proposed about the physical line. The brilliant simplicity of thinking about mark making and the line in this way. It prompts me to think about the line and art making in the eight-sectioned poem.  

In If I Could Give You a Line, I play around with the traditional triangular relationship between artwork, poet, and reader. I don’t think my relationship with the reader is as traditional as a lot of ekphrastic poems. The book started with my envy of contemporary visual art and the immediacy I feel when I walk into a gallery or museum and experience that engagement with something made. I like that it’s a little impossible to be that immediate to my reader, but still be gesturing to them. I am exploring what it means that a moment of looking, as in a museum or as speaker in a poem, can feel both public and private at once. That tug and pull also connects to some of the speakers as mothers who want to be heard as artists but feel limited. What is the value of making something when they often feel ignored. Making art as a parent changed in something for me, and I am trying to figure that out, even though I am not always directly writing about motherhood. I am always writing about artmaking. I guess I can’t shake that every poem is an ars poetic, for me.

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Carrie Oeding (rob mclennan)

I started writing poetry around the same time as I started getting into philosophy, back in middle school, bumbling my way along, so they’ve always influenced each other. I’m always asking myself what the difference is between these, well, acts of mind. What does poetry do? How does it work? I’m fascinated by how people answer these questions. My first book is Remains, which was republished in 2022 by Tiger Bark Press. My mum died in a bizarre car accident in 1995, and the book is my way of understanding her, I mean, the complicated, wonderful person she was, not just the fuzzy memory. I spent a couple of years talking with some of her childhood friends, college friends, talking with my family. We had two large trunks of letters and photographs and artwork in the basement. But Remains is also about how that whole idea, understanding her, isn’t really possible. The Pigs is my second book, and I’m glad, kind of stunned, really, that I finished it. I changed so much while writing it, and it’s so different from the first book.

I know that The Pigs is a very personal book for you, as it is rooted in your experience as a public school teacher. That experience unfolded against the backdrop of multiple school shootings, from Sandy Hook to Parkland, as well as the increasingly hardened police presence in our schools. Can you tell us more about that history and how this book came about?

Hardened is a good word. After the shooting in Uvalde, there was talk about “hardening” schools by locking doors, restricting access, and increasing the presence of things like police and security cameras. These are often proposed with the conviction that they’re protecting kids. This is how The Pigs began. I was angry. I wanted to open, and soften, this idea of what it means to protect kids, what it really means, especially in the context of a school, which is not about protecting but about growing. And I resist as much as possible these forms of love that are really forms of coercion and control. The more I read about school shootings and the people involved, the more I found myself writing about who I was in middle school. I was a violent, angry, lonely white kid. Change a few small details in my life and I imagine that things could have ended much differently. How did I make it out of childhood? What did I learn, then, to start becoming who I am now? I’d forgotten. I was trying to remember. The Pigs is my attempt to give that back to myself more intentionally.

An Interview w/Tim Carter (R. M. Haines)

Luke Samuel Yates focuses on everyday life and small details which show how relationships are built on little interactions, brief conversations and people pass without really communicating and missing the signals each is trying to convey to the other. The poems are packed with characters too busy to move into the future to pause a notice what’s happening in their present surroundings. Wry observations from a poet who recognises the importance of the immediate.

Emma Lee, “Dynamo” Luke Samuel Yates (Smith/Doorstop) – book review

When actors are in rehearsal they will often have a person whose role is to supply the correct line when the actor forgets or fluffs the script. I was recently asked to be the prompt in a production and this poem arrived as a result.

today’s unique selling point is that when words fail us
we can call line
and the appropriate dialogue will be supplied
all we have to do is repeat what we hear
and this drama that is our lives may continue until
the next person fluffs their speech

the director tells us to take ten
we look at each other and wonder what to say

Paul Tobin, TODAY’S UNIQUE SELLING POINT

One of the first clues into the framing narrative of Dear Outsiders by Jenny Sadre-Orafai comes straight from its stunning cover. This image of two people blending into one only to reveal the sea, one learns through reading, works to evoke the experience of the two siblings who serve as the speakers for this collection. Sadre-Orafai makes use of the first-person plural throughout in ways that reflect the blurring of boundaries and experience.

The presence of the sea is a starker matter; its presence speaks to the death by drowning of the siblings’ parents. The other element to take note of is the title itself. The first-person plural “we” here often feels like it’s addressing the reader in a direct, intimate way, similar to a letter.

These elements come together in startling and powerful ways. In “Low Recitation,” for example, a scene of the two siblings looking over maps quickly devolves:

We try to see different pictures, but the blue is kudzu, silencing the land. Name the world’s seven continents. Name the world’s five oceans. We think we see our mother’s body shape there.

José Angel Araguz, microreview: Dear Outsiders by Jenny Sadre-Orafai

15. The stories in Tanakh (the Hebrew scriptures) land differently when one can see the topography of spring and desert, valley and hill.

16. Even the names used for places, neighborhoods, and structures here convey identity and politics. Settlement or neighborhood? Security fence or separation wall? 

17. To really describe this place of promise, maybe I would need God’s voice: conveying all possible meanings and nuances at once.

18.  At the Great Mosque in Ramle one might sit on the floor, press palms to the lush carpet, and ask God for peace and wholeness for this place and its peoples. Of course, one might do that anywhere.

19. Everyone is on top of each other here. Different communities might be only a stone’s throw apart. I’ve known that for years, but when I’m away I forget just how true it is.

20. In her poem “Jerusalem,” the poet Naomi Shihab Nye travels from “I’m not interested in who suffered the most” to “it’s late but everything comes next.”

Rachel Barenblat, Fifty truths

After the headache cleared, I took a quick trip up north to my parents’ place. There was a moment, not recorded by my phone, when I was driving on a road that follows a shore’s path, and the swath of trees that borders the road gave way to a clear view of the water. At the moment of clearing I could feel something in my body shift and calm. When I was growing up, my parents were not boat people or water people, despite where we lived. I did not grow up on the water, in any way, but it was always there. Big bodies of it, surrounding me, as if I were a peninsula. Where I live now there is a big river–several of them–but a river is a straight line running past, not a surrounding sea.

As we got in the car to leave, my son said to me, “I can smell the beach,” and I took in a deep lungful. Yes, I could smell it, too, and feel it, standing on the pavement next to the car next to the house. Something damp and fecund and salty. I miss it when I am there, in it. I get it in my lungs and realize that I don’t feel as at-home anywhere else, even back in our neighborhood park full of fir trees that stand like sentinels, reminding me so much of the trees in my first neighborhood, the one at the top of the trails that took us to the beach, that I took a picture of the park trees this week, days before my trip home, while in the midst of the migraine that almost canceled the trip.

Migraine is another kind of home.

A notebook is a kind of home, too. This summer, I will be living and working in a place without easy internet access, and I’m wondering if I should go old-school–do all my reading and writing off-line, with paper and ink. I wonder what that might do, how it might feel?

I wonder if it might feel like going home. (You can never go home again.)

Rita Ott Ramstad, Of roots and wilting and home

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 20

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: writing and landscape, poems haunted by death, poetry as prayer, and more… a bit more. This is a shorter than usual edition, due I suppose to the start of summer vacations and/or immersion in that too-long-postponed writing project. Regardless, enjoy!


To bite down on the very thing itself
that gives shape to our sounds, voice
to our breath? Holding the idiom close
one would think what we’d say was so
powerful, it required warding off in a
deliberate act of self-harm—and yet
the bite is most often accidental. O
Friend, my wish: please let it shape
every syllable, every blessing and chant […]

Lori Witzel, Biting one’s tongue / Che le sa

This is a time of writing. I wonder how I will look back on this time of early mornings at my desk, moving through the book at pace, pouring myself into it as if I was trying to fill a well with myself. This is how it was with my last poetry collection too: an unstoppering of myself, a release of all the animal thoughts in my head that have been sitting caged for years, waiting for their freedom. It is both exhilarating and exhausting. So much of memoir writing, and this is a memoir of sorts, is about excavation of self and I find myself in a strange position of actively grieving my dad whilst capturing that grief on the page and linking it in and in and in to a sense of belonging, or a lack of a sense of belonging. I once visited Wharram Percy, an abandoned medieval village near Malton. The place had a magical feel about it, and by that I don’t mean Disney magic, I mean something earthy and unseen, as if the lives of the people who had lived there flickered under the ground, a turf fire never quite going out. It was beautiful: the little lake with ducks bobbing, the roofless church, the little graveyard and the footprints of houses, the paths you could walk where the last inhabitants had walked. Seen from above, on google earth, it’s easy to see the village laid out. But up close it is raised mounds, fields with those typical medieval plough lines still embedded in the ground, trees, water. It doesn’t really look like a village. You have to bring it back with your imagination, you have to rise above the ground to see the impressions. This is what it feels like to write this book. This is how it feels right now to walk through the chapters, placing a house here, a field here, a lake here, a bog, a fen, a marsh here. I place wolves at on end and the sea at the other. If the landscape is an archive of ourselves and itself, then these are the scars we leave on it and in it.

Wendy Pratt, The Shells of Ourselves Left Behind

Last night, I considered how solo walking, especially at night (again I’m aware of my positional privilege in this) is not like being in a bell jar but a diving bell, carrying your own environment with you yet having a connection to the outside—the air tube. It’s ultimately about the self and our connection and individuation from the world. Is it “I am because my little world knows me?” or “I know the world and so I know myself?” Mark Strand: “In a field/I am the absence/of field./…/ We all have reasons/for moving./I move/to keep things whole.” We send out feelers, signals. We echolocate. It’s psy(e)chogeography. We sense the shape of our inner landscape by travelling through the one surrounding us. 

Walking with my dog expands this landscape. I think about how he echolocates, what sense of the world and himself he might experience, how we experience each other—a kind of conceptual leash between us, a dog-human umbilical cord. At night, I walk Happy without a leash so our connection, like Philip Pullman’s daemons in The Golden Compass, is entirely relational, an invisible attractive force between us. We walk in parallel yet always with one eye on the other.  

I quoted Mary Ruefle’s line about the creation of the lyric poem, “the moon was witness to the event and…the event was witness to the moon.” That’s like my dog and me. The world and me. And, walking while wearing headphones, the beginning and end of a Möbius strip made of music, story and imagination. A strange loupe. 

Gary Barwin, The Selected Walks

I was flicking once again through the Down At The Santa Fe Depot anthology of more than fifty years ago when I settled to read the calm, confident poems provided by DeWayne Rail, who was then a young teacher in his mid-twenties. […]

He creates/ recreates the sense of place, or more accurately, of an isolated farming family battling to scrape some kind of living against the odds. It made me think of how much our upbringing roots our poetry, of how far we really travel. Although I have lived all my life in the English Midlands, as have most of my ancestors these last three or four hundred years, my working life was carried out on the move, which offered another perspective, of what it is like for those whose life consists of leaving, of going, of shifting landscapes, of life among strangers with their own histories.

For many years it was this life on the move that seemed to dominate my work but as I get older I find the sense of a home, of the ghosts of childhood and of a more distant past before I was here, comes to the surface more often, if only to provide a balance. Perhaps this is why renewing my acquaintance with the poems I have by DeWayne Rail has been so fulfilling – and has led me to find out more about him.

He remained in Fresno, teaching at the city college for thirty years, writing stories, poems, non-fiction, enjoying his family, with interesting in birding, gardening, chess, and playing the guitar. It sounds like a life quietly, honestly, fulfilled.

Bob Mee, OF DeWAYNE RAIL (1944-2021)

Taking care of myself is taking care of the writer in me. And as I talk to friends, walk, run, even watch TV, I’m thinking and experiencing. I’m making connections. I’m not at my computer and I may not even write anything down (in my notebook or my phone), but thinking is part of the writing process. Yes, thinking counts. Inspiration can strike at the unlikeliest of times.

Earlier this year I moderated a book event for Lee Martin in support of his beautiful new novel, The Glassmaker’s Wife. He said something about research tricking you into thinking that you’re actually writing, when really all of that work is “pre-writing.” But I’m all about the pre-writing. It’s an essential part of the writing process. It counts. We’re all filling the tank with gas, then revving the engine a little, before we speed off.

Maggie Smith, Pep Talk

I’ve had some publications out over the past months. One I’d like to mention is Bluestem, which published some of my little box poems this month. I make these with small pharma, cosmetic, cough drop and light bulb boxes. And whatever else is at hand. With these, I like working with the idea of the interior landscape. A kind of revelation. It remains hard for me to give up language and do pure wordless collage. Have I done it? I don’t think so.

I was lucky to have someone ask to buy the one pictured, as well as another one with the same short text:

the window was open
and the poem left slightly ajar

This text is one of my favorites because I like the idea of the poem being left slightly ajar for something beyond words to come in, i.e. visual poetry. At the same time, a poem left ajar also makes me think of the reader entering with her own memories, associations and point of view. I will make more of these.

Sarah J. Sloat, Interior Landscapes

In retrospect, what felt best: thoughtful reviews such as those quoted here, and private notes that affirmed the book’s success at reaching people. Riding the small press bestsellers list for months was awesome. Holding the book in my hands and knowing I did well by its ambitions. I didn’t achieve everything I fantasized about–no top venue reviews, and many of my applications for events and post-publication prizes struck out–but so it goes for everyone. There will be a next time. I’m very slowly building toward a book in a similar hybrid mode with the working title Haunted Modernism (that’s the concept, anyway–the title is probably too common). I’m revising a second novel. And my sixth poetry collection, Mycocosmic, is already contracted for publication with Tupelo in winter 2025. Meanwhile, it feels good to be heading into a summer of writing and revision–challenging activities but quiet ones.

Yet I’m aware that I still owe plenty to Poetry’s Possible Worlds. Publishing industry energy is all about the three months after a book appears, but the whole point of a book, I think, is that it lasts, and with some luck holds up over time. A slow burn is exciting in its own way. I will keep stoking its little fire, because what I want more than anything is for the book to appear on the radar of people who might enjoy it.

Lesley Wheeler, Voyaging to and through Poetry’s Possible Worlds

The Taste of Steel / The Smell of Snow, containing poems by Pia Tafdrup originally published in 2014 and 2016 and translated by David McDuff, was published by Bloodaxe Books last year. The Tafdrup/McDuff/Bloodaxe collaboration goes back more than 10 years now. The Danish poet’s work inclines to themed series of collections – The Salamander Quartet appeared between 2002 and 2012. The current volume presents in English the first two collections of another planned quartet of books, this time focusing on the human senses. In fact, the ‘taste’ book here feels much less conscious of its own thematic focus than the ‘smell’ one, not necessarily to the latter’s advantage. There is often something willed, rather laboured, about some of the work included here, which is most disappointing given Tafdrup’s earlier books. But her curiosity about the world remains engaging, her poems are observant of others, often self-deprecating, her concerns are admirable (environmental, the world’s violence), plus there are several fine pieces on desire and female sexuality. […]

In both collections, Tafdrup gathers poems into brief, titled sections of about half a dozen poems each and the ‘War’ section extrapolates the sense of personal conflict and loss to more global/political concerns. ‘The darkness machine’ opens plainly, if irrefutably, with the sentiment that a child “should be playing, not / struck in the back by a bullet”. The point is made more powerfully (because less directly) in ‘Spring’s grave’ with its repeated pleas to “send small coffins”. ‘View from space’ adopts the even more remote perspective of the Cassini space probe’s view of the planet, but also ends with plainspoken directness: “that’s where we ceaselessly produce / more weapons, practise battle tactics, / turn our everyday lives into a night of hell”. The concluding genitive phrase makes me wonder about the quality of the translation; I have neither Danish, nor the original in front of me, but does Tafdrup really use such a cliché?

Martyn Crucefix, Pia Tafdrup: recent poems from Bloodaxe Books

I was going to write about metaphors. And the language of cancer. About cancer that is an inside job. Radical little cells just wanting to live.

When I touch my breast, I know this knot of cells isn’t the fault of something I ate, or inhaled, or thought. It’s not a manifestation of unresolved anger. It’s a slip-up in cell division. This, too, is nature. And nature is not our romantic notions of symmetry and dividing lines between the good and the evil. Trees are uprooted in gale winds. Bacteria hitch a ride in a flea, on a rodent, on a boat to land on a pier and ultimately all-but wipe out a human culture. Life happens. Sometimes it is not to our advantage. That isn’t the same thing as evil. That – this – is nature.

B. told me last Christmas that she didn’t believe in silver linings. I understood that to mean she didn’t believe we’re handed something nice in a kind of yin-yang balancing of good and bad as comfort or recompense. She did believe in the “this, too” and in choosing to hold everything – and not in spite.

My junior high art teacher told me that there are no true lines in nature. We impose those in our imaginations.

And I see now that painting is just another form of storytelling.

I am not sure how I want to talk about cancer. But I am not going to offended by anyone using language and imagery that differs from mine. Understanding other people’s perspectives is everyone’s responsibility. Discussions should be everyone’s little sandbox for joyful exploring. Build a castle. Knock it down. Start again.

Life is not a book that comes with an answer key in the back.

Ren Powell, How to Metaphor

The beautiful thing about keeping a searchable blog or journal, either online or offline, is that I not only rediscover my past poems, but I also see how cyclical my despair is.  I came across a post from 2013 with this nugget:  “I can’t remember when I last wrote a poem, although I could easily look it up. It’s probably not as long as I think.

But more importantly, I can’t remember when I last felt like a poet. When did I last make interesting connections of unusual links that would make a good poem?”

It is good to remember that my brain has been making those links, even when I am not conscious of the process.  It is good to remember that I’ve felt like a failed poet before, often just before the times when I would go on to have creative bursts.

I shouldn’t be surprised that I haven’t written many poems lately.  I want to remember the writing that I have been doing:  blogging almost every day and doing a variety of writing tasks for the 6 graduate classes I’ve been taking–not 6 hours of graduate classes, but 6 classes.

I have a bit of a break this summer, so let me do some strategizing to reclaim my poet self, to let the poems in my brain make the ascension from my brain onto the page.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Letting Our Poems Ascend from Our Brains

I have two poems from my new chapbook Love and Stones on New Writing, an online project showcasing new writing from alumni, staff and students from the University of East Anglia (where I completed my MA in Creative Writing in 1997). I’d recommend that you read the poems on a laptop or similar, if possible, rather than a mobile phone in order to see my intended line breaks, particularly of my sunflower poem.

My first poem ‘In Lockdown, Solitude Becomes a Flying Lover’ was inspired by a postcard of the painting ‘Over the Town’ by Marc Chagall, and refers to the first lockdown in 2020 when my solitary writing life was interrupted by my family returning home.

The second poem ‘sunflowers exist, sunflowers exist’ was written during the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when I saw a widely shared clip of a Ukrainian woman telling Russian soldiers to leave her country and offering them sunflower seeds “so that sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.” This poem is after the book-length poem Alphabet by Inger Christensen, translated by Susanna Nied.

Josephine Corcoran, Two poems from ‘Love and Stones’ at New Writing (UEA)

The class begins Friday, May 26 — two classes, sort of — one on-ground, 3:30-5:00 (at my house; there are a couple seats left), and one on-line, 11:30-1:00 (plenty of room).

The title is “Your Memorable Poem.” My theme is inspired by a friend who, looking at a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, said, “I could never write a poem like that.” Of course it’s not easy (if it were, then we wouldn’t need NSN), but I think you could. The way to begin is to look very closely at how the poem is made, not to “slice and dice it,” or “master it,” but to sit with the poem, as if interviewing it, or sharing a meal. What did this poet do, in order to create this poem’s effect on us? We’ll have a little time to write, and time to offer feedback to each other.

Bethany Reid, Upcoming Poetry Class

The cover image of Harry Clifton’s Gone Self Storm is Mark Tracey’s beautiful black and white photograph of Howe Strand, which shows a ruined building silhouetted between the running sea and the sky. The poems themselves are haunted by death. Parts One and Three are dedicated to the memory of dead women, the first being the speaker’s mother or stepmother. Part Two begins with a short sequence set in the Glasnevin cemetery, and most of its poems are elegies or addresses to the dead. What’s really distinctive, though, is not this elegiac subject matter but the way ideas of change and disintegration have been absorbed into its style and expressive procedures.  Many of the poems slide like dreams between poles of fragmentary but extremely sharply focused distinctness on the one hand and uncertainty on the other. This is clearly deliberate, suggesting how ungraspable things become as they slip into the past. Moreover, the speaker’s uncertainty about things surrounding him extends to uncertainty about himself.

Edmund Prestwich, Harry Clifton, Gone Self Storm – review

the trumpet player
leans in and whispers
into my ear
a poem about death

Jason Crane, poem: (untitled)

My debut essay collection is coming out in November, and when I began writing it, it was to be a memoir about my relationship to the loss of my father through the lens of food. It has morphed and changed many times in the intervening years (and I will write about that process, too), and now it also includes my life as a mother to my children, as well as my relationship to my mother and her death. I didn’t expect that when I started, just like I didn’t, for a long time, expect that I would miss my mother when she died. That sounds horrible, I know. But she’d want me to tell you that, too. She was big on honesty and acceptance and done hiding behind alcohol or shame. We had a rough time for a long time. I understand now, in a way that I couldn’t when I was younger, that she had a much rougher time inside her addiction–a place where you are ultimately very much alone.

Sheila Squillante, Our Lady of the Artichoke

The book is marked by a “mollusk dawn” of self-awareness, a tectonic paradigm shift, a reevaluating and resetting the axis of meaning or towards gelling into meaning. And (spoiler alert) a finding of core truths in the value of family and of love.

We are witness to [Diana Hope] Tegenkamp as she realizes the other side of the binaries as on p. 14—

Her mother mouthing the words in a choir as instructed is recast wider, “mouth moving,/making its own silence” with “Song, and cries/held in”, meditating on the implications of not being heard, at an individual level or the level of Highway of Tears. A mandated silence numbs. If you are closed to your grief, you are also closed to your joy and your history.

Pearl Pirie, Girl Running review

In the old days, the dead were not 
            immediately escorted to a final 
resting place in the earth, nor lifted
            onto a funeral pyre. Their hair
was oiled and dipped in the fragrance 
            of orange groves, their faces
turned toward the high-shelved
            mountains where they would perch
in rows like figured birds— No longer on 
            the ground terraced by the farmer’s 
plow but not yet in the canopy of the gods, 
            wreathed with smoke they presided  
at the house-front wrapped in blankets. 
            Coming and going, you’d feel 
it was you they held vigil for; you 
            they couldn’t yet bear to leave. 

Luisa A. Igloria, Vigil

It just happened that this week I have been editing and laying out three chapbooks that are appropriative in nature. One is Catharine Bramkamp’s Unconscious Words, poems plucked and molded from bestselling novels from the past decade or so like Game of Thrones and Gone Girl. The other is Colleen Alles’ collection of poems found in Jane Eyre, Reader to Tell You All.  The third is Erika Lutzner’s chapbook of centos Think of a Have Made of Glass, All the Bees, Theoretically At Least, amazing centos created from the lines of older and newer contemporary poets like Plath and Sexton and, blushing, even me. I am a fan of these kinds of poems–centos and blackouts and related forms.  Appropriated and re-worked texts. I have written my own (from Plath) and published quite a lot of chapbooks through the dgp series that include them. Obviously, as a collage artist, most art feels like appropriation in some way (though you should always credit your sources and be honest about your process, especially in writing.)

And of course, AI springs to mind, especially as I embark on training for the project I’ve recently signed on to that is supposedly supposed to help AI be a better poet. Exciting and slightly horrifying. Because AI is all appropriation (the bad kind with no credit, which complicates things.)  The very worst a bot could do would be to go off and start penning centos, stealing lines of poetry, but I am not sure even this is something a bot could do well without dissolving into chaos.

Kristy Bowen, plunder and reveal

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?

It’s very weird to care deeply about scribbling in notebooks and blackening pages and reading all the time and buying too many books and hosting a podcast about writing and being interested in what your friends are reading and writing and sending actual letters and postcards to people and agreeing with Morrissey when he sings “There’s more to life than books, you know, but not much more” and then finding yourself talking to some guy in an airport bar and the guy says, “Why read books? I haven’t read a book since high school” and he’s proud of it. I’m all for whatever gets you through the night—and for me it’s books, it’s always been books—but for most people, and more and more, it seems to be other stuff. If people want to spend their time playing Shiny Bubblegum Princess games on their phone that’s up to them, but it doesn’t give me any pleasure. The writer’s role is clearly much diminished. But all that really means is that if you still feel compelled to write, knowing nobody gives a shit, it means you’re really a writer. It also means you’re free to write whatever the hell you want. Not having a role, or having a role so small it amounts to the same thing, means spirit is free to play where it will. And maybe that then becomes the role. The more people who are free, on whatever level, to do what they love, creatively, the more energy must be injected into the larger culture. In any case it’s very pretty to think so.

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Jason Emde (rob mclennan)

To say that poems are prayers is now so common as to be somewhat hackneyed. (A poet I know Tweeted an attempt to update this with the pithy but somewhat unconvincing edit that poems aren’t prayers, but rather why we pray.) If poets can bend religious imagery toward secular texts in this way, then I think it’s not too bold to think of literary criticism as a type of sacrament, a ceremony or ritual one does in order to connect more fully with the divine.

In the Quaker tradition, they do not speak so much of sacraments as of disciplines, such as fasting, meditation, prayer, and quiet. I think of writing criticism in this way. With a discipline, it isn’t necessary for us to be in a completely perfect mindset before we start. The point of a discipline is to do it, and in the process, the right mindset will sometimes come. Do the disciplines enough, and eventually you’ll be in the right mindset more often. Wrestle with sloth and envy through criticism, and maybe, one day, you’ll have just a little bit more control over these things all the time.

Jacob R. Weber, Literary Criticism as a Secular Spiritual Discipline

May I recognize my hilly landscape
and not expect to live in the plain.
Know that I am the hills and ravines,
the sun-drenched fields and deep shadows, 

gulleys, mustard fields, yellows,
veils of light that drape like silk slips […]

Jill Pearlman, Confused Spring Prayer

It was a day of record-breaking heat (and no air conditioning), so I doubly appreciated the people that came out, and the store putting out several fans. I also packed a cooler with water bottles (and sparkling rose) and boxes of macarons—because people need sustenance during a book signing.

The reading itself went okay—you can see the whole thing here on my YouTube channel—did you know I had one? Minus Martha Silano’s excellent introduction. (Hey, you have to be there in person for some parts!) […]

Any reading where I can walk out with new books and a borrowed recording of Sylvia Plath readings is a good reading in my book, and it was a really good venue, especially the “Parlor” for afterwards visiting.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, The Open Books Flare, Corona Reading, Interviews and Podcasts, Things Breaking Down, Heat Waves with Goldfinch and Hummingbirds

When I reached the Cliffs of Moher, a
thick fog covered everything. Cold, damp, not
a glimpse of rock or sea or sky, as if something
had bitten off one edge of the world. Isn’t a
lot of life just like that? Opaque? Ill-timed? A
function of disconsolate variables? Like us.
Ordinary. Incomplete. There are no reasons to
wake up. There are no reasons to continue.
There are no prizes for winning. You find a
level that is just enough. That works as long
as the tea is warm. That is good for a couple of
verses. That is as short as a long sigh. Enough.

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Part 47

that garden moment
when the only thing moving
is the music

Jim Young [no title]

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 19

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: first encounters with favorite poems, poetry and grief, mothers and fathers, and more. Enjoy.


When, in 1982, I first encountered William Carlos Williams’s now-famous 1923 poem ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’, readable here, it was instantly inspirational and probably the first poem that I really loved. Like my devouring of the works of Kerouac, Ginsberg and the other Beats, this came about because my brother Adrian, four years older than me, had undertaken a poetry module as part of his American studies degree at Essex University. We both loved WCW’s poem for its directness, immediacy, exactness, brevity, shape upon the page, and absence of punctuation and upper-case lettering; so much so that Adrian, with no little pretension, asked our mum to knit him a jumper which featured a red wheelbarrow against a grey background. I don’t think anyone ever ‘got’ the image without prompting, but we knew – and somehow that sufficed. To us, ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ seemed a significant advance on Ezra Pound’s 1913 poem ‘In a Station of the Metro’, which rather clumsily attempted to transmit the spirit of haiku into English poetry.

Over the years, my admiration for ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ has reduced, partly because my tastes have broadened to include poetry far more florid than Imagism and perhaps because, like WCW’s ‘This is Just to Say’ (which, due to the abundance of social media parodies it has spawned, has become more well-known than ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’), the poem has, within the poetry world, become famous to the point of infamy. In my own poetry, whatever concision and specificity they contain are qualities I first grasped from WCW’s poem. But by 1983, I’d discovered the Penguin Book of Japanese Verse and its translations of Bashō, Buson, Issa, Shiki and other haiku poets and retrospectively found Imagism to be verbose in comparison. Nevertheless, I retain a certain nostalgic fondness for my first love.

Matthew Paul, On ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ and what Donald Davie had to say

I still have the copy of The Will to Change: Poems 1968-1970, by Adrienne Rich that my sister, B. Ruby Rich , gave to me for my 16th birthday. The first single author book of poems I ever owned. What did my teenage self make of it? Dear Reader, my mind exploded. I was just turning 16 and already I was more than ready for transformation.

Looking back at this copy, here are the only words which I underlined in a time when I didn’t believe in underlining in books:

To read there the map of the future, the roads radiating from the

initial split, the filaments thrown out from that impasse.

To reread the instructions on your palm; to find there how the

lifeline, broken, keeps its direction.

from “Shooting Script,” final section

Now, more than 40 years later, I am amazed at how deeply the images and syntax have metabolized into my own work: maps, palms, and pushing to establish new roadways into a reformulated self. Poetry as alchemy.

Here was a woman (with my last name, but unfortunately, no relation) writing of the inchoate world that I’d intuited without having the words for such ideas. Was the wreck (I immediately purchased Diving into the Wreck:Poems 1971-1972 with my babysitting money) actually submerged underwater or was the wreck more of an internal, carved out shell of the mind?

Susan Rich, Adoring Adrienne Rich

Metaphor is risky. Sometimes I feel like a distrust of metaphor is the primary feature of contemporary poetry. If this is true, it goes right back to modernism and the revolt against (terrible mixed metaphor incoming) the debased coinage of flowery Victorian verse. It has something to do with modern conditions, too – alienation, transitoriness, the destruction of old certainties. All metaphor is a kind of dance between an individual’s sensibility (I think this is like this) and what can be expressed in language, but what you can risk depends in part on trusting your adience to make the leap with you. But modern audiences, where they exist at all, are necessarily unstable.

Instinctively, I know poems need metaphor even as I shy away from it. It can be tempting to squeeze one in at the end of a poem, in the same way we might close on a rhyme though the poem had previously shown no interest in such things.

Jeremy Wikeley, Billy Collins, Middlemarch and Metaphor

Grief turns everything on its head; the reason and logic of language can fall short. This poem doesn’t make logical sense because grief doesn’t make sense. It has to be felt, not reasoned with, and we need to make adjustments to include loss & grief in our lives. Hence the repetition of the word ‘adjust’ in the poem. 

Here’s a bit about how I approached the making of this work: I began by Googling ‘tips for dealing with grief’ and included some words from my searches. I also reference the ritual of tea making, punning on the phrase ‘adjust to taste’. Since reading Megan Devine’s book It’s OK That You’re Not OK, I’ve discovered that the stress of grief can show up as physical pain, which was certainly the case for me. Days after my mother died, while I was still in hotel quarantine, I began to experience acute physical pain in my left shoulder (which still hasn’t completely healed. I reference that shoulder pain in the poem.

When I showed ‘Tips for Dealing with Grief’ to Donna she was inspired to made a teeny book, typing the words of the poem onto pages made of teabags (you can see them in the photograph). We included the book in our recent exhibition, SOLACE, as part of Adelaide Fringe. I also used a fountain pen to write the poem on rice paper, which was hung in the gallery. It was bought by someone who planned to hang it in their workplace as a way of prompting discussion about grief and loss between work colleagues.

Caroline Reid, Tips for Dealing with Grief

I’ve not read the whole that this is from, but the words by C.K. Williams about how “each death demands / its own procedures / of mourning but I can’t / find those I need” really helps. Each death is universal; each death is utterly its own. And then, when the losses build up, I wonder what happens to our ability to find the right ways to mourn? The trauma gets embedded into our bodies in ways that are not easy, though loss is never easy. The layers of loss and trauma though, that must be different now.

Shawna Lemay, Marking Occasions

I have no blueprint. I’m getting younger. One poem does not have to sound or look like the next. I make coffee, sit down and see what happens.

Before I begin, I check if a payment has gone from the bank account. A message pops up: We’ve made some exciting changes to our Log-In Page.

A brochure for community living for the Over-60s drops through the letterbox. A home is built on laughter and good company, says the brochure. Enjoy stress-free retirement living, says the brochure. There are friendly faces everywhere, says the brochure. Our friendly on-site staff ensure everything runs smoothly, says the brochure. Our friendly team will be happy to help, says the brochure. Find out more about our affordable way to buy, says the brochure.

I make another coffee. Look out at our lawn full of forget-me-nots, daisies and dandelions. The neighbours, who will mow their grass if they spot a single daisy, call it a jungle.

Bob Mee, STREAM-WRITING, 13 MAY 2023

How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

Really depends on the project. In the last decade or so, as I explored drawing on research for book-length projects, my whole creative process shifted from writing individual poems in short bursts to a slower, longer framework for completing a book, even if poems were arranged in series. I discovered a remarkable slave story in New Orleans right before I was leaving for another position, the last slave to use the courts to sue for emancipation on the eve of the courts being closed to slaves with the signing of the Fugitive Slave law. This slave, Cora Arsene, won her case. Dred Scott, in a different state but the same year, did not. Writing that long poem entailed a decade of research about Southern slave history (including the Haitian Revolution), and much much consideration of genre. The new collection, instead, it is dark, beganwith the shock of my husband’s massive heart attack. He was born into occupied France, and my rather inchoate impulse as I began the book was to honor his life by turning some of his memories and dreams into poems. I conducted a lot of research and ended up interviewing his extended family in France for this collection.

rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (second series) questions with Cynthia Hogue

As a child I used to love exploring the old fortifications in the south and east of Zimbabwe, as well as the rock art that is dotted around the country. The rock paintings, by semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers, are difficult to date but are believed to be at least a thousand years old. Many may be much, much older, dating back several millennia. They are found in caves and rock shelters, or underneath massive overhanging boulders. 

These extraordinary works of visual poetry use the surfaces and materials that were available to their creators at the time: natural earth pigments, mixed perhaps with animal fat, painted on smooth, weathered granite. Large slabs of rock allowed the artists to paint freely and expressively; splits, curvature and irregularities in the rock face are integrated into the compositions. […]

When thinking about poetic constraint, we tend not to consider surface. It’s interesting to contemplate how poetry has been shaped by the surface on which it is written – rock, stone, clay, wax, parchment, fabric, paper, electronic screen – and how this has evolved over time. 

Marian Christie, Rock, Paper, Scissors: Shape and Surface as Constraint

Yes! is a sensation. Creating is a sensation. Editing in a groove is a sensation. Poem is a sensation.

Get enough stimulant and take away enough sleep, add enough stress and you’ll addle yourself into invoking a sensation, but labelling it poem doesn’t make it one.

Sometimes it’s as if the muse exists and you channel something into something close to final form. Some dark half of your brain has been working on that while you were doing the business of life. Sometimes these poems are your best that people like the most and yet they took the least effort while what you laboured over, invested in consciously, took pains to perfect, receive a meh.

Pearl Pirie, The Joy of Editing

I’ve been thinking about my heart condition and looking at poems I wrote shortly after having a heart attack. Contemplating my mortality is a new thing for me. I’ve had to adjust my thinking about time and the future. It’s a subtle shift but a profound one to consider that my time to be, to write, and to love is limited. It’s unsettling in the most interesting way to think of the body as having a mind and deadlines of its own.

Rachel Dacus, A poem on mortality & the heart

David and I enjoyed many happy visits to Laugharne and the Carmarthenshire coast from our Swansea home. You can barely make out the Writing Shed, but the Dylan Thomas Boathouse is the last white building beyond the castle on this side of the estuary, where the tidal stream bends to the left. […]

Lidia Chriarelli has once again curated an anniversary website to mark the occasion – here. My thanks to Lidia for including my Swansea-based contribution, a picture-poem. You will find it here, if you click the link and then scroll down. 

You might also be interested in Dear Dylan, an anthology of Dylan-inspired poetry and prose from Indigo Dreams Publishing, edited by Anna Saunders and Ronnie Goodyer. This volume (see here) was published on #DylanDay 2021 and contains one of my poems, ‘Tentacles and Tar’. 

Caroline Gill, International Dylan Thomas Day, 14 May 2023

I’m writing this from my little ex council house, my little pebble-dashed paradise, in the room that I set aside for myself as a gesture of belief in myself. I’m listening to the birds in the garden and the sheep in the next-door field and the sound somewhere (already?) of a lawn mower and the sound of people getting into their cars and heading to work. I am relaxed. As far as ambitions go, this is where I am and what I want. I want to make enough money to do the thing that I love and the thing that I think I’m good at. The relief knowing that this is entirely in my own hands is wonderful. And yet there is still an element of writer’s block going on in my little peaceful office.

This week I finished a block of mentoring in which myself and the mentee worked together to look at what she wanted out of poetry, out of being a poet and looked at how to get to that place. There is something that happens to poets in particular, I think, in that they have an idea of what they ‘should’ be and forget to ask themselves what they ‘want’ to be. It is perfectly acceptable to not want to dominate the poetic scene, to not want to climb over people to get to the top. We forget that joy does not always come from conquering, it often just comes from existing in a contented manner.

Wendy Pratt, Writer’s Block and How to Beat It

Cannot fall asleep from having Mother-
worry for so many things I never can
put adequately into words. I have
Mother-ache and Mother-sorry,
Mother-lonely, Mother-poor and
-poorly, Mother-never-will-come-
up-to-measure. Mother-who-has-left,
-has-left-behind, -has-herself-been-left,
who cannot finger the space in the middle
without feeling the old pulsing that once
came through her, bound her, unbound her…
Picture Mother as a mime whose arms
close around her, rock her, remind her:
who will save you if not yourself?

Luisa A. Igloria, Mother-

Identifying her body at the funeral home before cremation (because they send the wrong ones so often, did you know that? I didn’t, but I do now) the thing is, all her beauty was restored. My father’s mis-shaping blows. The drunk decades of absence. The rapes she suffered. The dead brother, her mother’s voice saying it should have been her. All of it. Generations of trauma, the things we do not say. Gone to wild violets, dogtoothed, in the forest. Gone to horses. Gone to freedom and innocence, cliché or not: just gone from her, her elegant bones gone to the before, before any of it went wrong. Only beauty left, invulnerable at last in this extremity of our mortal situation. That face, her beauty, burned into me too: that final loss of her, but in tenderness now. In tender surprise at so much beauty in the corpse of her, impossible and true.

So what, then, of all her consequential failures, or of mine. I still carry them, but so much else too. She tried, for a long time, and consequentially, to amend, as I did. Some we failed. Some we won. 

JJS, Mother’s Day

“Latch” is a quiet, studied exploration of what ties us to home and the shifting role of motherhood, from being mothered to becoming a mother. The poems are an intimate sketch of family life from a child’s view and then a mother’s view, that use the personal to make a broader point. We are shaped by our parents’ actions and our landscape. The country with its floodwaters, weirs, rivers to swim in is as much a character as the people. Water nurtures in warm baths and drinks, and also cleanses. Rebecca Goss invites readers with a poised engagement and rewards with precise language guiding the reader through the accumulation of details to cross the threshold.

Emma Lee, “Latch” Rebecca Goss (Carcanet Press) – book review

My father, my ancestor, was kidnapped by shadow. Late in the afternoon, a shadow crept through the window and lay like a carpet on the floor. My father bent down to examine it for though he was a master rug maker, he did not know how to weave darkness. 

As soon as he touched the floor, he was taken, where we did not know. My father was a clever man and over the years of his disappearance, learned the secret of weaving shadows. And so, though he never returned, my sisters, my brothers and me, our children, and our grandchildren, learned also. We saw our father’s patterns stretched across the road, in long shadows near the end of day, the dark woven into his name.

Gary Barwin, Father of Rugs

I’ve been working on some fun little aesthetic vibe videos inspired by other writers on Instagram I’ve seen..usually for novels and never for poetry, and yet, I realize that poetry books also, though they may or may not contain narrative and stories, definitely DO have a vibe. In fact, you could always say that poetry is sometimes JUST vibes. An experience, a moment, an intangible piece of communication. It’s yet another thing I am not sure that AI could produce of translate, even with hashtags. I did an experiment earlier with the image generator where I typed the phrase of one of my favorite Tik Tok aesthetics–dark academia (which is really just all of our styles in the 90s if we read too much Donna Tartt) and it gives me nonsense, and yet, most people would understand what I’m talking about. It’s a mood. A set of moods. A vibe. […]

These are glorious fun, and I actually made a couple in the past year about works in progress, sort of inspo boards in video format as a taste of what I’m working on. Last summer, GRANATA, and earlier this year, RUINPORN, the manuscript I just completed. In both cases, they both help reflect and inspired me as I go. I even did a similar one just for my shorter series, villains because I had the images saved for making daily NAPOWRIMO reels. There’s something about them that appeals to the collage-ist in me (plus music!) Be on the look out for more of older books and newer projects…

Kristy Bowen, all about the vibes

This weekend has been all about stripping…Paint-stripping specifically, and it is slow, laborious but dull work. It has meant I’ve been able to catch up on some podcasts as I strip away at layers of paint in my hallway.

Each one has had lots of interesting things to say, so in the absence of anything else I shall point you to them.

1. Rebecca Goss being interviewed by John Greening. It’s in two parts (part one and part two, because that’s how two-parters work.) This was recorded before her latest book, Latch, came out, but you can here in the podcast the book coming to fruition. I loved lots of what Rebecca had to say about being a poet, about her trajectory to becoming a poet, about learning to fight against defaulting to the same form—in her case it’s couplets and being labelled “deceptively simple”. You can also find transcripts here and here

2. The comedian Steven Wright being interviewed by Conan O’Brien. This is a new podcast to me, but I love Steven Wright’s sense of humour. His one liners are incredible.

For example, “Support bacteria – they’re the only culture some people have.”. See here for a list of 100 or so, and get yourself his albums, ‘I Have a Pony or ‘I Still Have a Pony ‘.

The reason I note this podcast, despite being it just being incredibly funny, is that he describes the 4 rules he set himself when he started out. You’ll have to listen to get them all, but essentially he talks about not doing political, topical material or swearing in his work. The first two help to give his work a timeless quality, and the last one is to help make the work land more. A joke with swearing in can be funny, but if you take the swearing out it makes the line work harder. This may or may not be useful in terms of writing poems. I am on the fence, but see what you think.

Mat Riches, Anthropocene and not heard

This week I’d like to celebrate the debut poetry collection of stellar poet and friend, Amanda Galvan Huynh: Where My Umbilical Is Buried (Sundress Publications).

I’ve admired Galvan Huynh’s work on and off the page for some time now. She’s a committed Xicana educator as well as an editor, alongside Luisa A. Igloria, of the essay collection Of Color: Poets’ Ways of Making :: An Anthology of Essays on Transformative Poetics.

I had a chance to read the collection and provide a blurb. Here’s what I wrote:

“From the title, Where My Umbilical Is Buried, Amanda Galvan Huynh invites readers to engage with the metaphor and image rich sensibility that drive the poems within. From the roads, nights, and fields where memory lies ‘buried’ under the sounds of voices whispering, Coke tab bracelets jangling, and cumbias, these poems grow and flourish into a lyric gift, an expression of affirmation and presence for gente y familia—the living, the dead, as well as who we must be in between.”

José Angel Araguz, writer feature: Amanda Galvan Huynh

There seem to be plenty of launches and other events coming up. I just read today about Josephine Corcoran’s new pamphlet from Live Canon, to be launched on May 21st. Tomorrow Jill Abram’s launch for her debut pamphlet from Broken Sleep is happening in London – I had booked to go along, but then was offered the chance to talk about Planet Poetry to 3rd year students at Brighton University at their end of year publishing course. Peter and I couldn’t resist the idea of being on a panel and talking about the podcast! Thanks to Lou Tondeur for the invitation. On June 2nd I’m delighted to be reading at Frogmore at 40, Frogmore Press’s 40th Anniversary event in Brighton. I’m a tad daunted to be honest, looking at the names of the other readers. So I just hope I’m not reading first. Please come if you’re anywhere near Brighton, it should be a grand night!

Robin Houghton, Launches, project updates and two disputed works

Poems in this short collection are set where I live, against a Wiltshire backdrop of standing stones and henges, at the time of extreme heatwaves, a global pandemic and the start of the war in Ukraine. At the time of writing, my two children were growing up and becoming adults and I was re-establishing life with my husband in a long marriage. All of these events have found their way into the 20 poems collected in Love and Stones […]

Josephine Corcoran, My new chapbook ‘Love and Stones’ is available to pre-order

I’m so happy to share that my debut essay collection, All Things Edible, Random and Odd: Essays on Grief, Love and Food, is now available for pre-order through CLASH Books! The official release date will be November 28, 2023 and I’ll be using this space and others to share information as the date approaches.

For now, I’ll just say that this is a project –let me catch my breath here–twenty years in the making.

So, you know: maybe don’t give up.

Sheila Squillante, All Things Book News!

I had author photos taken in advance of The Familiar‘s publication (and found out that the official launch date of the book will be February 2, 2024. Yay!) The author photo experience was a strange one: I promised myself that when I had a new book I’d have a proper professional photograph taken (also, I believe in updating author photos. I don’t want to be one of those people who uses the same photo for 10 or 20+ years — aging should really be documented and acknowledged, even if it ain’t pretty). But I may have moved too far out of my league, because while Priyanca Rao (of Creative Headshots NYC) is a really personable, highly talented, super-skillful photographer, I’m definitely feeling imposter syndrome when I look at them, to the point I *had* to poke fun at myself when I reposted some of them on Instagram.

Sarah Kain Gutowski, All the Stuff All at Once

I’ve got my poetry set all set up and so excited to be at my favorite all-poetry bookstore tomorrow with my friend Martha Silano (whose poem was a clue in NYT crossword this week, what what!) and we’re bringing fancy macarons to share during the book signing afterward in the Parlor.

This is my first time reading at Open Books’ new location in Pioneer Square. I’m hoping we can keep it cool (and I’m bringing a few cold drinks with me just in case) and that people show up since we are having beautiful sunny weather after an entire spring of rainy gray cold days. I had to drag out all my summer dresses and sandals after wearing sweaterdresses and boots earlier in the week. I’m happy to say you can also order a personalized copy of Flare, Corona from Open Books here. Support indie bookstores!

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Book Launch and Straight into Summer, Interview with Kelli Russell Agodon, BOA’s Blog Post and Making a Flare, Corona Cocktail, and Readings Tomorrow and Monday!

Under it all there is a low not-sound; a subtonic grinding of plates; while above are the netted lines of swallows too shrill to be heard, too quick to be traced; letters that  dissolve in the sky before they can be read. The book is there. Here, rather. Anywhere that a fool might reach. Did you really think you were the only exception? God may be merciful; I wouldn’t know; but that would be bizarre.

Dale Favier, Books

Amorak Huey’s latest collection of poems is titled Dad Jokes From Late in the Patriarchy. It came out almost exactly two years ago from Sundress Publications—get your copy of it here—while the pandemic had been going on long enough that I was thinking the end was maybe in sight, though of course I had no idea what the end would look like or if it would ever come. I’m trying to remember just what it was like to open this book up and read these poems but that time is squashed together into mostly one big shitball. I can look at the date and know what must have happened around then but I can’t make it work in my memory.

What I do remember is the way I read this book slowly, because after every second or third poem I just needed to take a breath and ruminate on what I’d just read. I told Huey as much on Twitter, back when I was on there.

Brian Spears, Backwards Poets Write Inverse

An apology has to hold
the whole universe in its
hands. It has to be heavier
than the wound. How many
words make up a universe?
How many words make up
a universe that is forever
expanding?

Rajani Radhakrishnan, Interlude (38)

One thing about being a writer is that, after awhile, you meet other writers one way or another: sometimes through social media, Zoom events, or in person at book signings and readings; sometimes through conferences, workshops, or various educational programs; sometimes by finding local writers groups or getting an introduction to someone through a friend. When you meet writers, you get the additional privilege of reading their work. It so happens that lately, many of my writerly friends and colleagues have published books, and I’ve been busy reading them! […]

The near-abstract imagery and the concrete place-names and lyricism in Heather H. Thomas’ 2018 Vortex Street appealed to me on several levels, from the scientific (a repeating pattern of swirling vortices, see “fluid dynamics”) to the particular: my husband grew up in Reading, PA, where some of these poems are suspended in recollection. I’ve also loved reading Grant Clauser’s latest, the 2021 Codhill prize-winner Muddy Dragon on the Road to Heaven, a collection of poems that strikes me as both deeply beautiful and tenderly sad. Poet Lynn Levin has published a terrific book of short stories that remind me of the wry sense of humor and wide-ranging knowledge her poems have while proving she’s also a deft hand at plot and character. Maureen Dunphy’s memoir Divining, A Memoir in Trees, brought to mind parallels with Lesley Wheeler’s memoir in poems, Poetry’s Possible Worlds. In both books, the authors have chosen a locus [an American tree, a contemporary poem] and used the exploration of that “trigger” to draw out something personal. What better way to connect with readers than through something we love and value? Which brings me to a shout-out to Jane Satterfield, whose poetry collection The Badass Brontës isn’t in this photo because I’ve already lent it to someone who’s a Brontë fan.

Ann E. Michael, Reading friends’ books

Tell us about the new collection

I haven’t put out a book. Instead, I’ve collected a few spoken-word’n’beats’n’rhymes together in either an extended EP or a short album and called it Funkinism.

It covers a lot of ground: from comedy cannibalism to nature-funk, from forgotten black women to people (like myself) who aren’t that good at dancing.

I’m releasing pieces one by one via my Bandcamp and sharing snippets on Facebook and Instagram too. My Patreon supporters got the whole thing as a free download for backing me […]

How has the poetry business/scene changed over your life time?

I think the arrival of the spoken word/performance poetry scene has given a big boost and a youth-injection to poetry, which is great. Actually, before that in the 1970s, the rap scene began with street poets battling it out verbally. Rap is poetry and hip hop is massive. So I guess I’ve witnessed rhyming words becoming super-popular and travelling right around the world.

In the 21st century, social/digital media invites poets to reach audiences they might not have (although we find ourselves shouting into the void unless we spend some advertising dollars). It also invites us to spend a lot of time learning how to use these digital tools. Time that could have been spent doing your do. I’ve definitely succumbed to too much tech, not enough artistry, which is why I wrote this piece, called Watchin’ It or Doing It.

I’ve seen festivals increasingly offering poetry tents (which are packed): a brilliant antidote to atomised creatives performing snippets of their work to a camera screen, only for that worked to be watched just 3% of the way through until the audience scrolls on to another bit of eye-candy.

Paul Tobin, MAMA TOKUS THE INTERVIEW

They’ve built a new wall between the park and the motorway. I had to strain to hear the cars over the birds. Not that I put effort into it, once I satisfied my curiosity. Once I grounded myself in the reality of a kind of “this too”.

There was a soft rain. Perfect running weather, though I can only walk right now. I like that tug in my center that tells me: run. It means something different now. Not a running from or a running to – but a way of being with the world.

Art pour’art. Life imitating art. Life for its own sake.

I recognize this feeling. It’s not a high. It’s filled with gravitas. Maybe this is what contentment feels like: joy tethered to the deep unknowns. Fear has a story, I think, while this is something akin to reverence.

I will return to running. I am ready now for the familiar.

Ren Powell, The Familiar