Saturday, April 21, 2018

S is for Edna St. Vincent Millay: Sincere and Direct

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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When I first encountered the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, I dismissed it without reading much of it. Because it was direct, sincere, and easy to understand, I thought it simplistic and less meaningful than the complex and cynical work I admired at the time. 

I probably inherited a bit of this attitude from the literary scene. She wasn't one of the poets people mentioned as an influence, and some poets were downright dismissive of her work. I can remember one conversation when someone called her work "greeting card drivel."

She had once been so popular and admired a poet, but by the time I was studying poetry, no one was talking about her work.

But more recently, her poems have come across my radar from time to time and I found them beautiful and moving. I am older now, which may have something to do with it, and my views have changed about those complex and cynical works I once admired. A lot of it seems contrived and pretentious to me, and sincerity and honesty is exactly what I'm looking for. She feels like a breath of fresh air to me in that way.

She's better technically than I ever gave her credit for, too. Her formal sonnets have all the right beats and rhyme schemes, yet feel as fresh and natural as free verse. That's quite a feat!


I feel I owe her an apology for judging her when I was younger based on reputation alone instead of reading for myself. Luckily, it's never too late to read her work and admire it.



Friday, April 20, 2018

R is for Robert Browning: Dramatic Monologue

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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I love dramatic monologues. They bridge the space between poetry and theater, allowing the poet to take on a character completely separate from themselves and put words in their mouth. Like Shakespearean soliloquies, they can give real insight into a character while wowing you with gorgeous language and metaphor.

One of my favorite dramatic monologues ever was written by Robert Browning: My Last Duchess. It's a creepy thing, a slow reveal. At first it seems to be merely an art collector showing off his collection. But there are all these small red flags that creep up, until you find yourself wondering if the Duke in question killed his wife.

"That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive."

It's there even in the opening lines. The ominous feeling. The next few lines have the Duke insisting strongly that the listener sit and examine the portrait, that he notice the look of warmth in her eyes.

"Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek"

Jealousy reared its ugly head. 

"She had
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere."

Yikes. Dangerous jealousy. I start to wonder if I misread and this is actually by Edgar Allan Poe. 

"Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive."
 Shudder. 

This poem amazes me for all it says by not saying, for all that is suggested, threatened, or implied. When he finishes and it is revealed that the visitor is there to discuss the Duke's intentions to marry again, a Count's daughter, I find myself hoping the emissary has the wit to refuse the match, lest this turn into Bluebeard's castle. Masterful work.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Q is for Nizar Qabbani: Dramatic Declarations of Love

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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Confession time. I didn't have a poet I love for the letter Q. At least in English (which is the language I read best) there aren't that many names that start with Q, let alone names that were given to people who became poets and whose work I love. 

So I had to go searching. 

I found a Syrian poet, Nizar Qabbani. A lot of his work is available in translation.

As I clicked on poem after poem, I found short, tight little love poems, full of sweeping passion and glamorous hyperbole. His work made me think of the part from Dead Poet's Society about what poetry is for: 


There was something really refreshing about such direct and flirtatious words. Sometimes the cynicism we live in wears me out and I just want to pick up the beautiful parts of a fairy tale and live there. Qabbani would be the court poet.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

P is for Edgar Allan Poe: Macabre Magic

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.
This will be my 5th year participating.
In 2014, I wrote about evocative words.
In 2015, I wrote about my publication journey and the release of my first novel.
In 2016, I wrote about my favorite superheroes.
In 2017, I wrote about the places of my heart.

My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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I'm not sure how old I was when I found Edgar Allan Poe. I'm pretty sure I was still in elementary school. I can remember coming home from school and telling my mom about "The Raven."

I was a bit of a macabre little thing, with a fascination with ghosts, witchcraft, demons, and other spooky things. That poem had me at Hello, or in this case, at "Once upon a midnight dreary."

If you are going to grow up a bookworm, it helps if someone near and dear to you shares your addiction and my mom was and is a total bookworm, too.


When I told her about "The Raven," she told me about his short stories and took me to the library to borrow a collection. I stayed up late into the night scaring myself silly (and occasionally pulling out my dictionary to find out what some of his fabulous words meant).

Sadly, this led to a long period of me writing terrible poems with overwrought vocabulary and lots of exclamation points. I'm sure my parents must have bitten the insides of their cheeks raw trying not to laugh at some of my efforts.

Happily, this led to my lifetime love affair with language, with words like languid, quaint, sepulchre, lattice, and tintinnabulation. That man had a vocabulary and could weave it like magic, casting a spell over a reader that lasts a lifetime.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

O is for Mary Oliver: Soul Salve

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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Are there any poetry readers who don't love Mary Oliver? Heck, even people who don't read poetry read Mary Oliver. There's this acceptance in her work, this reassurance.

Her words comfort me like Judy Blume's did when I was a kid.

She feels like that rock-steady friend that you know you can't shock and who won't think less of you no matter what you're thinking or feeling.


How many times have I turned to Wild Geese in times of trouble?

So many of her poems are calm contemplations in the face of nature, small epiphanies that bring peace and understanding. 

Dang. I think I want to be Mary Oliver when I grow up. 


Monday, April 16, 2018

N is for Pablo Neruda: Love in Small Things

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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Pablo Neruda came across my radar in a Spanish textbook. Oda al tomate (Ode to the Tomato) was selected probably because the verbs are mostly in present tense, making it more possible for a beginning Spanish student to be able to parse the poem, but I didn't care about that. I was drawn in by the absurd imagery and the humor.



I began to seek out Neruda's other odes. Ode to my Socks brought such joy to my heart, with its celebration of the commonest of comforts in life: a good pair of socks given in love. Ode to Broken Things full of domestic remembrance and familial love.

Neruda did not only write odes, though. He wrote lyrically of sadness and loss. What I always feel in all his lines is the love.

Some favorites:

Here I Love You. 
Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines.
His sonnet: I Do Not Love You.

He's good in translation and a reason to learn to read Spanish!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

M is for Michelle Boisseau:

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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Michelle Boisseau was my teacher once. She and George Eklund were the two poets on the teaching staff at Morehead State University during my tenure there. 

Michelle lost to lung cancer last year, so can now only teach me through the words she left behind now. 

 Counting was the first of her poems I loved. "After a while, remembering the men you loved/is like counting stars." I think it might have been the line about the lover whose skin still smelled of milk that got me, back then. 

She was always so good at that striking and powerful first line. 

Another one, Eurydice, is my favorite retelling of that particular myth. "It isn't you he wants, but the getting you out." This poem might be why I've become such a lover of back and side door stories, that reinterpret stories I already know and love. 

Michelle was the person who turned me on to Louise Glück, who remains one of my favorite poets. 

The Fury that Breaks with that lovely structure, where the object one line becomes the subject of the next. 


This poem sent me off to explore the work of César Vallejo, for whom the poem bears a dedication. So, even there on the other side of the veil, Michelle is still telling me who to read, knowing just who will speak to me. And she's right, too. I'll miss her. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

L is for Li-Young Lee: Lyrical Loneliness

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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Li-Young Lee earned his place in my pantheon of poets with The City in Which I Love You, which is both the title of a poem and of one of his collections.

I found this collection during my searching years: my early twenties. A time when I didn't yet know what I wanted, but was starting to understand what I did not want out of life. A time when I sought strange horizons to explore, the better to find myself contrasted in unfamiliar surroundings.

I was romantically lonely, even while with friends, in the same way Lee's poetry was.


Lee's poems pull from both the personal and the political to give a vision of a wanderer seeking home. I'm drawn in by the yearning of the poems, because there's an echo of it in my own heart, still, even now that I am older and much more settled. His work touches the melancholy in me, without dragging me down into depression or burning me in anger. 

Immigrant Blues: 


Persimmons: 



Re-reading his poems now, it is the pathos of these narrative moments that strikes me. The directness, the seemingly emotionless uncolored and stark portrayal of painful moments, made that much more powerful by understatement. Amazing. 


Thursday, April 12, 2018

K is for Maxine Kumin: Seeking Connnection

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 600 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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I first found Maxine Kumin in her prose, in particular a collection of essays and stories called Women, Animals, and Vegetables which centers around her experience in transplanting her family from an urban to a rural setting. I felt a kinship with the woman I found in these pieces, a woman seeking a life of meaning, a woman drawn to nature, with an underlying whimsy in her thoughtfulness. Like me, she seeks connection.

A poem from that collection remains one of my favorites by Kumin. The Word. It describes an encounter with a doe while on a horse ride and captures some of that joy and longing that such an encounter can elicit, a feeling of awe intermixed with more complex emotions like jealousy and loss. A feeling of being lucky and wanting to be that lucky again.

My favorite lines are in the middle:


Part of why I read poetry is for that feeling of recognition, when a poet articulates something I have also felt but could not explain, even to myself, nearly so well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

J is for John Donne: Spiritual Matters

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 400 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.
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If you ever took a British Literature survey course, as many high school students of the United States have, then you've probably read some John Donne. A deeply serious poet, concerned with matters of the spirit and of morality, he has the distinction of having written one of poetry's oft-quoted lines: Death be not Proud. It comes from one of his Holy Sonnets:

It's a poem I've taken comfort in, when mortality is knocking louder than usual on my peace of mind. I also deeply admire Meditation 17, which includes the immortal lines "No man is an island" and "ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee." Meditation 17 is maybe not a traditional poem in structure, but in feel and sound, it certainly is poetic. 

But, what I love about Donne is the chance he gives me to contemplate G-d and spirituality, separated from politics and particular religions. He approaches these topics as an individual person, with passion and anger and seeking of peace. And in that, I find more connection than in the words of someone who no longer grapples with the big picture. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I is for David Irwin: Nostalgia in Smells

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 400 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.


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When planning out my list of poets, I often had to choose between six or seven beloved poets for a single letter, but there were a few letters where I couldn't think of anyone. The Letter "I" was one of those. With a little research, I found a few: David Ignatow, Isaac Rosenberg, Holly Iglesias, Isaac Watts,  Ingrid Jonker. But the truth is, that none of these were poets I already knew and loved, not like the rest of the poets I'm writing about in this series. 

At first I was frustrated, but then I realized that I had just handed myself an excuse to read a bunch of new poets and find out who spoke to me. Turns out it was Mark Irwin. I've still only read a few of his poems, but I'll be seeking out more. 


This one is my favorite of what I've read so far: "My Father's Hats." 

It captures that feeling of your dad is someone epic and strong and large that some of us experienced as children. In that way, it reminds me of Theodore Roethke's poems about his father, in particular "My Papa's Waltz." I love the part about smelling the inner silk crowns of the hats. So intimate. And what the smell evoked for the speaker. 

Any other poets starting with "I" (first name or last) that I ought to check out? Let me know in the comments! 

Monday, April 9, 2018

H is for Langston Hughes: America Singing

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 400 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.

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I didn't find Langston Hughes until I was a teacher and in my early twenties. 

I discovered his work alongside my students through verses like "Dreams," "Theme for English B," "Mother to Son," and "I, Too.

My students at the time were mostly Y'upik, and I'm a white woman from Kentucky, but we found that the struggles of race and place in the world spoke to all of us, even though we were years and miles away from the Harlem he knew and wrote in. 

Most of Hughes work is short and to the point and written in very accessible language, a real selling point when introducing poetry to people who don't normally read it. You don't have to untangle what Hughes is trying to say, but it is deeply affecting and will stick with you a long time. 

Just a couple of months ago, I was able to attend a multi-media show at the Carolina Theatre of the Langston Hughes project. The show, Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz,  combined live jazz performance with readings of Hughes's verses, against a backdrop of images of the time period. It reignited my interest in this poet and his work. 

In fact, I have a dream poetry anthology project that stems from Hughes poem, "I, Too." "I, Too" is a response to Walt Whitman's anthem "I Hear America Singing" pointing out the America that Whitman didn't hear singing back in the 1800s. 

I'd love to get other poets to write their own "I, Too" poems, elucidating the other songs Whitman didn't hear that make up our nation now. Maybe someday when I'm rich and famous, that's something I can fund. 





Saturday, April 7, 2018

G is for Louise Glück: Detached Subjectivity

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 400 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.

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Louise Glück was suggested to me by one of my college professors when I was taking a poetry writing class. I don't remember what my professor thought I would like about her work, just her saying, "You should check out Louise Glück."

The book I found was The Triumph of Achilles, 
published in 1985 and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. Thematically, the collection could maybe best be called "archetypal" in that it explores ancient Greek mythology, fairy tales, and Biblical themes alongside personal insights, often reinterpreting the stories you think you already know in a new light. It begins with a poem called "Mock Orange" and these lines:


My professor was right. I was going to like this poet. In fact, I followed her work for quite a long time, until poetry drifted out of my life for a few years. I see she's released more books since I last looked, so I'll be back to see where her words took her.

I loved and still love the dialogue feeling of this poem. Though we don't get any details about "you" in the poem, we do get the feeling of the relationship, the defensive antagonism, the "don't patronize me with your sympathy" anger in the speaker. I feel like I jumped into the middle of a circular argument, often tread by the people in this relationship. There's enough ambivalence that I'm not sure if the speaker is being gaslighted, or if there's something else entirely going on.

Reading her poems always makes me want to write, to fill in the details Glück chose not to, to imagine the surroundings of the moment, the backstories of the characters, to discover what happened afterwards. The writing feels intensely personal, and at the same time detached, like trying to describe emotional truths in intellectual language. In that way, they are participatory for me, evoking my own imagination and emotions and leaving me thinking deeply.

Friday, April 6, 2018

F is for Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Beat Poet

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 400 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti is one of the last of the uncensored, free-wheeling poets of the Beat movement, exemplified by Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Patchen, Marie Ponsot, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Kaufman, Denise Levertov, Robert Duncan, William Carlos Williams, and Gregory Corso. (See how I snuck in the names of lots of other poets I admire?).

My favorite of Ferlinghetti's work is A Coney Island of the Mind. It includes my favorite of his poems: "I Am Waiting" which seems to some a rambling string of bon mots, some deeper than others. It puts me in the mind of what a conversation with Oscar Wilde might have been like:

"I am waiting for someone/ to really discover America
/and wail" isn't that different from "America never has been discovered...I myself would say that it had merely been detected."

And despite the extemporaneous feel, it's not without structure and the things Ferlinghetti is waiting for build on each other and join into thematic sections.

A lot of the Beat poetry plays better aloud than on the page, and "I Am Waiting" is at its very best performed aloud by an impassioned speaker, much like contemporary spoken word poetry.

It's very different than the careful, formal work of sonneteers, and speaks to a different shard of my soul. I'm glad to have such a variety of poetry in my life.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

E is for Emily Dickinson: Dwelling in Possibility

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 400 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.

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Emily Dickinson was the first poet I fell in love with, way back in first grade ("There is a solitude of space"). I turn to her again and again in my life when I need something thoughtful, challenging, and a bit odd. She speaks my heart more accurately and often than anyone else I read. (side note: if you're also a fan you should check out the White Heat project, exploring her work in historical context. I wrote a response for them recently)

Listing the poems of her that *don't* speak to me would be shorter than listing my favorites, but here's one I come back to again and again: "I dwell in possibility."

That opening line is gorgeous. A girl could go her life and never write anything that perfect. Dwell is perfect. Not live, not exist, but dwell with that combination of both “to live somewhere” and “to linger” or “to think about.”



Then picking up from possibility into windows. Quel metaphor! Possibility is all about seeing openings, views, horizons. Much better done through windows than doors.

And possibility becomes an actual house, a home. Cedars for rooms, guaranteeing privacy. Gambrels of the sky …a word that sent me to a the dictionary: “a roof with two sides, each of which has a shallower slope above a steeper one.” The sloping sky as a roof, nothing to block the view of possibility. Her visitors are “the fairest” which I read as people who also value openness.

That last line goes straight to the heart again. Emily, with her narrow hands-she was such a physically small woman-nonetheless reaching out to the wide world to bring in all that might mean paradise to her.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Obstinate, headstrong girl!

Welcome to the first Wednesday in April, or as I like to call it: confess your insecurities day! (at least the writing ones).  If you're not already familiar with this blog hop, I recommend checking it out, especially if you're a writer. 

The awesome co-hosts for the April 4 posting of the IWSG are Olga Godim,Chemist Ken, Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan!

April 4 question - When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

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I rely on my stubbornness. 

Honestly, that's true in a lot of aspects of my life. I'm intractable that way. Obstinate. Headstrong. Jo March is my spirit animal, or maybe Maureen O'Hara. 



I refuse to cede a battle with a manuscript. Oh, sure, it might have me on the ropes sometimes, but I'll come up swinging and eventually I will win. 

Sometimes this means a sneak attack, like coming in from an unusual angle, from a different point of view. I'm also willing to fight dirty, jumping ahead to the ending or another pivotal scene and just ignoring the slag pile of scraps of a scene in front of me until later. Fight smarter, not harder, right? 

I've also got a great support team of critique partner ninjas whose insight I value highly and will also consider deeply, even if it is painful. I'm not afraid of hard work. If something is important to me, I'll work for it. And writing is important to the core of me. 

So, it's not much of a secret really. I'm just too stubborn to let it go. 


D is for Rita Dove: Different Angles

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 400 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.

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The thing I enjoy about Rita Dove's poetry is that sideways view, that stepping in from a different angle. Like in this one: "Heart to Heart" where she compares her actual heart, the organ, to decorative hearts and metaphorical hearts.

I especially like the ending stanza that plays with idioms about hearts: the key, the on the sleeve, the bottom of it.

In the end, all the hearts are offered to the listener: the muscle in the chest, the representation of romance, and the metaphorical center. But, she'd practical: you can't take the heart without taking the woman, too.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

C is for Lucille Clifton: Unapologetic


It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.

My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 400 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.

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Poetry sometimes has this image in people's minds, a rather ridiculous one with flowing clothing, impractically bare feet, and ethereal looking half-starved people nattering on about finding the universe in a flower. I think that's part of why people don't read it enough. They think it's silly or an intellectual exercise, not for "regular" people.

This is part of why I adore Lucille Clifton. Ms. Clifton gets to the point, tells you how it is, and challenges you to dare to disagree. She was a short, somewhat chubby African-American woman who took joy in her own body and life, who felt beautiful and strong and appreciated herself. That's amazing. She's grounded and direct, which makes her stand out from other poets.

She's so self-assured and unapologetic in her poetry, so proud of who she is and how she's made, so lacking in all the self-doubt and mincing about that can be so much a part of a woman's life. She's not afraid to take up space, to take credit for herself and her own worth. A powerful voice indeed.

Those ending lines are the kicker though. Come to think of it, it's often her ending lines that leave me grinning.
I have quite a few favorite poems by Ms. Clifton. But the first one I found was "Homage to My Hips." As a wide-hipped girl myself, I connected with the poem as I struggled to come to peace with my self-image. It's even better when you see Ms. Clifton herself reading it.


Lucille Clifton Reads 'homage to my hips from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.


Monday, April 2, 2018

B is for Elizabeth Bishop: Raw Heartbreak

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.

My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 400 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.

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Elizabeth Bishop won her place in my heart with a single, perfect poem: "One Art." It's a poem I come back to again and again. It *really* speaks to me. I wrote a paper for grad school on this poem, a good one that my professor liked.

 Look at my scrawl all over that thing-I was, and am, in love with this poem. This poem is so deep and layered and amazing, I feel incoherent even trying to explain why it’s so amazing.

If you’ve ever tried to write a villanelle, then you know what a challenge it is to use the repeats well, to make sure they deepen and change and subvert each time they reappear. No one has ever impressed me more than Elizabeth Bishop with this form.

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master” doesn’t stand out on its own. It’s not one of those ooh and ahh kinds of poetic lines. But it’s the crux of this poem. Each time she repeats it, I hear Bishop lying to herself, trying to convince herself that she can learn to master losing, that if you do it enough, it won’t hurt so much. Like its a matter of warming up the muscles so you don’t pull anything on your run.

The first time, it’s a line about self help: I mastered losing and you can do it too! Here in just a few easy lessons, I’ll teach you how. She begins with small losses that aren’t too painful: door keys and time. The tone is glib and blithe.

Then the losses deepen, get more personal. That mother’s watch. But she still feigns humor. They’re just things, it’s not a real disaster.

Then they get large, hyperbolic even: houses, cities, realms, a continent! Surely if you can lose something that large, then the small losses don’t matter.

Then we get to you.

I can feel the hysteria bubbling under the claims that it’s all going to be fine. Really, the pain is so bad the poem itself is falling apart, with parentheticals and em dashes, even italics. The control is gone. And my heart breaks with Bishop’s.

What a heartbreakingly wonderful work.

A is for Adrienne Rich: Passionate Skepticism

It's April! Time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge!

For those who haven't played along before, the AtoZ Blogging Challenge asks bloggers to post every day during April (excepting Sundays), which works out to 26 days, one for each letter of the alphabet. In my opinion, it's the most fun if you choose a theme.

This will be my 5th year participating.
My theme this year is Poets I Love all about some of the poets whose work has touched me over the years.

For my regular readers, you'll see more than the usual once-a-week posts from me this month. I'm having a great time writing them, so I hope you enjoy reading them, too. Be sure to check out some of the other bloggers stretching their limits this month to share their passions with you, too. With over 400 participants, there is bound to be something you'd love to read.

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Adrienne Rich is one of the first unapologetically feminist writers to come onto my personal radar. I found her work when I was a college student, studying creative writing alongside my education, Spanish, and English courses. That's when I found a lot of the poets that I still hold dear in my heart.

What drew me to Rich's work, though, wasn't her feminism. I was still awkwardly feminist then, hadn't claimed the label, even though I held the ideals. No, what I fell in love with in Rich's poetry was the bold stark statements that she made with utter sureness. They felt like proclamations, like truths.
Lines like: 

"Lying is done with words and also with silence." (from a speech-turned-essay titled “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying.” 
"A thinking woman sleeps with monsters. The beak that grips her, she becomes." (from “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law") 
“It will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
It will be short, it will not be simple” (from "Final Notations")
Some poets I read for the small picture, the individual detail, the personal. Adrienne Rich I read for the big picture, the philosophy, the sweeping vista, the same way I read Ursula LeGuin in prose: writers of IDEAS rather than writers of MOMENTS.

The older I get, the more I find in Rich's work that speaks for and to me. I ran across this quote from her as I was looking at her work for this post, and I think it summarizes that philosophy pretty darn well, a philosophy that is becoming my own, as well:
From Credo of a Passionate Skeptic: "I began as an American optimist, albeit a critical one, formed by our racial legacy and by the Vietnam War...I became an American Skeptic, not as to the long search for justice and dignity, which is part of all human history, but in the light of my nation's leading role in demoralizing and destabilizing that search, here at home and around the world. Perhaps just such a passionate skepticism, neither cynical nor nihilistic, is the ground for continuing."