It is, for me at least, a new year. Wishing everyone a happy Rosh Hashanah with hopes for a year in which we all move forward in all of the ways that we are able, hold on to one another in health and illness, and hang on to our own and each others’ goodness.
My new year starts with retirement in exactly 8 weeks. The scramble is on to apply for Medicare supplemental insurance and social security benefits. And then, at Thanksgiving, I am leaving my peninsula home for a month of family visits. More about that another time. But I am still looking for someone who would like to retreat at a lovely private home with water and mountain views in exchange for catsitting while I am away, in case you know anyone who might be interested.
And ! There are new chapbook reviews to check out!
Janice Gould, beloved Koyoonk’auwi (Concow) poet, friend, musician, and teacher, left our realm on 6/28/19. Headmistress Press joins with others in our grief at losing her much too soon, and our deep condolences to her beloved partner. We are proud that we published two of Janice’s books, “The Force of Gratitude” & “Seed.” Her words will ring their truth forever. The last time we spoke with her, Janice said, I would still love to meet you and talk with you. I so appreciate what your press has done for my poetry.
How strong this channel has become, the river widening at the bend, creating shoals and back currents, where chilly water will be warmed by sun, and willows sprout along the graveled shore. I hear bees among the blackberries, can smell their prickly fragrance, and some days I think I see her on the other side, near the edge, surveying the wild current, noticing how the wind rips along the surface of water. She watches all that shining where forces collide— otherwise known as my heart.
I just want to say that the chapbooks people from many countries are sending me are amazing. There is a world of creative folks out there eager to have their words read. Not only is the poetry itself remarkable, most of the cover art is fantastic.
And so different, not only from each other but from the poetry I would tend to read if I weren’t curating The Poetry Cafe.
And the poets range in age from teens to 90’s.
And the notes that people have sent, the willingness to trust me with their sacred words humbles me.
And some are illustrated- with photos, collages, paintings, & cartoons.
And one that came from the UK was accompanied by a CD.
And some are micro-chaps- tiny little books sewn together or tied with ribbon.
And some are self published.
The list of these books and links to where they can be purchased is here. They are published by well-known small independent presses as well as many presses that I have not come into contact with. You could purchase any one of them, and I you would be supporting a poet and a small independent press.
It will take a while to review the lot, and I am looking for poets who would like to join me in writing reviews. If you are interested in writing a review, I will send you the review copy by mail. Just let me know!
It’s been a busy month for me. Sometimes there is drought: work, work, work, and little to show for it. Sometimes there is a Drizzle. And occasionally a refreshing, sudden-but-brief rain. Your work shines for a moment. And of course, that’s it. A moment. I say anyway: I love writing, reading, editing, publishing and reviewing poetry. The rewards are more intrinsic than extrinsic. Aw shucks, poetry folks, y’all know what I’m talking about.
Emily Mohn-Slate’s chapbook, Feed, unpacks the strains and tensions that overwhelm mothers of infants: anxiety, forgetfulness, desperation, loss of identity, guilt, hypervigilance.
Berger’s skill as a poet is in surprising language and a constant turning towards or leaning into an unexpected metaphor. This craft comprises the poems, not just elements of them.
Please contact me if you would like to review one of the chapbooks sitting on my shelf waiting for a review. You will find them here. And buy chapbooks! And when you do, buy them from the independent small presses that publish them. Support small presses!
Tanya Olson’s almost indescribable new release, STAY (YesYes Press) is up at The Rumpus. You may wish to read this deep probe into the American psyche.
There is an ever-present awareness of danger and wrongness here, matched equally with kindheartedness and deadpan humor.
My review of Mary Peelen’s Quantum Heresies (Glass Lyre Press, 2019) is at Psaltery and Lyre. If you don’t already follow this wonderful online journal, you may wish to check out their gorgeous site.
The strange logic of Peelen’s work confirms my own understanding of subjectivity.
I had a more-difficult-than-usual rejection this week of my current poetry manuscript. It was from a press that I love and support and greatly admire, and the pain didn’t come from the rejection– of course I didn’t expect “x” to publish my work. But I’ve had my two previous manuscripts rejected by this press with very personal and encouraging letters. This rejection was just — a rejection. A form letter.
I feel like rejection is PTSD for poets.
It triggers all kinds of feelings. Like most seasoned poets, I try hard to accept that rejections of my poems are simply a part of the work of being a poet. I try not to take them personally and usually succeed. I am typically able to reconstruct postive feelings about myself and my work; and then, to dust it off and re-submit. But there are always going to be some rejections that really hurt.
I’ve had my share of losses, including the unbearable: I lost custody of my son when he was five. I rarely mention it, because it was such a huge loss, and it was also an enormous rejection –of me as a mother, of me as a lesbian, of me as capable of holding my own in a fight, of me as, well, me. Nothing will ever feel as bad as that. But that loss can be triggered by other losses, other rejections. Like this one. And you never know when it’s going to happen, which makes it even trickier to navigate. You just open your email . . . . and fall apart at work, or wherever you happen to be.
Fortunately, I knew what to do. I emailed a few close poetry friends and got exactly the reassurance I needed. I love that there are sites on FB to post rejections, I belong to one of these groups. It helps to be able to feel that there is nothing shameful about rejection. It is not personal. This is why it is so important to have poetry friends. You know who you are. A huge thank you! I hope I am that kind of friend to others. I hope you are too.
I read entirely too fast. I’ve done this all of my life, with novels, finishing book after book in short order. I bring 5 or 6 novels with me for a week at the beach, and often buy another 1-2 while I am there. Reading fast is not always a good thing, it is costly for one thing and has left me almost buried in books wherever I live. In school I was always able to cram the night before for tests, but not always able to deeply engage with what I was reading.
My work life also enforces the habit. Working in medicine, I have to read pages and pages of other providers’ medical notes, lab reports, images, and whatnot, without much time to do more than get the gist of what is being conveyed, so I can be knowledgable enough to do my part for the patient. In a 20 minute visit. And then go on to the next patient. I am all too aware that the speed-reading approach to medicine is not good for provider or patient. We make mistakes when we don’t have enough time to think and read carefully. To listen carefully and ask questions before making decisions that affect others.
When the pressure of too-much-to-read spills over onto a Sunday, I tend to scan emails rather than reading them carefully. And I make some very dumb mistakes. For example, I fulfill orders for my press, and this week, while at work, I responded to a customer’s problem with her order, by sending an apology to a different customer, creating considerable confusion for both of us. Or when someone refers to a conversation I should remember, but actually don’t. Stupidly, instead of back-tracking or asking for clarification, I jump in with assumptions that often create discord or confusion.
A significant exception to my speed reading habit is when it comes to poetry and particularly reviewing a book of poems. When I review a book, I read slowly and carefully. I make notes. I re-read. Reviewing is teaching me the absolutete value of close reading. A lesson I sorely need to learn. To practice.
I just want to say, when it comes to everything else, I’m going to try to do better.
I wrote 30 poems, one each day, as a sonnet cycle. It was surprisingly easy to keep going, as every day I had a prompt from the previous poem. By about 4/12, I found that I didn’t have to count lines, I just wrote 14 and stopped. The form entered me. I will be working on revisions for a good while, but I’m hopeful that I have something here. The cycle starts and ends with this line:
It was a warm day in April when the coleus died.
I ate a totally plant-based diet (Vegan) for 30 days. I found it delightful. I spent more time preparing meals than usual (which I totally enjoyed), and I loved the colorful dishes, and the feeling of eating clean. I felt completely satisfied, when typically I am hungry a lot of the time. And I lost 9 pounds, which was, to be honest, one of my goals in this challenge. I’m thinking that giving up dairy (milk, cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, butter, yogurt) made the difference in having lost a few pounds. I hope it will also lower my cholesterol, which was above normal for the first time this year. I feel somewhat more energetic too. I like this enough to continue a mostly vegan diet, but will probably add eggs back in, since I get them locally from co-workers.
THREE What’s next?
I have a longer than a month goal in mind. I want to visit all of the waterfalls on the Olympic Peninsula. I have a map. I’ll have to give it at least a year. This is the Sol Duc Falls.
I had a bad week at work, or I should say a difficult week, since, truthfully, nothing bad actually happened. It just felt bad. Like I was driving a clunker, almost out of gas, miles from an off-ramp, behind an 18 wheeler going about 40 on a 55 mph highway. And more than just slowing me down, with me watching the little red gas pump light up on the dash, I couldn’t see what was up ahead.
I have, however, kept my commitment to write a poem a day all of April, and now I have 28 sonnets sitting on 28 pages, pretty as you please, waiting for the revisions to begin. Writing is the joy, the reward. Of course there were some very disappointing rejections to swallow, and, I’m afraid, more of those to come soon. I’m usually pretty tolerant of rejections, but I have to admit that when slight faith didn’t make the long list for the Suk prize, it stung. It’s been out for almost a year now, and it feels like its run is over without really getting out of the starting gate. Lord, I’m full of corny metaphors today.
It’s a cool sunny April day on the peninsula and my cats love me. I’m signing off now, to go outside to plant a container garden on the front porch.