Sunday Morning Muse with a Full Plate of Delicious Poetry

Last year in June, Molly Spencer, who is (among other amazing things) a poetry editor for The Rumpus asked me if I would write a review of Julie Wade’s Same Sexy Marriage. I thought, “why me?” at the time, having no purchase whatsoever in the book review world. But then the experience was transformative, for which I am immensely grateful. I have written (and published!) a review of a book of poetry every month since the first one. Although, I guess I should also count the practice runs: the reviews I’ve posted on Amazon and Goodreads, and here on my blog. I guess I was preparing for “the second career.”

I keep telling people (read, telling myself) that I am going to retire next January. One way to move gracefully into retirement, particularly from a long career in a job that I have always had a love/hate relationship with, is to already have moved on into the next phase.

Some of the next phase is already in motion. Writing poems has been part of my life for many years. I’ve edited and published and promoted lesbian/bi/trans poetry as a joint venture with Mary Meriam at Headmistress Press since 2013. I will be so happy to have more time for both of these projects.

And yet, it seems that I want to go overboard. So, the new project that I am adding to the plate is . . . a meeting place where poetry chapbooks are reviewed. The site is set up; it has an email address; the first chapbook review of Each Wild Thing’s Consent, by Lauren Davis has been published; I have a pile of chapbooks that were the inspiration for this project sitting on my desk, like cats asking for a treat; and I’ve already received a couple of chapbooks in the mail!

I still intend to keep up this blog and read others’ poetry blogs; being part of a poetry-blogging community been a life raft for me over the past year . . . although my attention might drift from time to time.

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Moving in!

The Poetry Cafe

I have already gotten a terrific response to The Poetry Cafe Project. It seems there are a lot of chapbooks looking for a sweet home review!

If you missed my review of Lauren Davis’ chapbook, “Each Wild Thing’s Consent,” I strongly recommend that you read it RIGHT NOW! 

Ok, now that you’re back, I want to open up the cafe to chapbooks!

I don’t promise to review your chapbook, but I promise to read it. I will list every chapbook I receive. Please mail chapbooks to me at:

The Poetry Cafe
60 Shipview Ln
Sequim, WA

If you prefer to inquire first, email me at:

I will also be looking for reviewers soon. If you have an idea for a chapbook review, please email me for instructions at

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Sunday Morning Musings AND a New Website (Exciting!)

I’ve created a new website which I will be launching soon! Announcing (ta da!)

The Poetry Cafe” . . . a meeting place where poetry chapbooks are reviewed. It’s currently under construction at:

My intention is to write and publish reviews of poetry chapbooks. So,

  1. If you have a chapbook you’d like for me to review, please mail it to me at:

Risa Denenberg
60 Shipview Ln
Sequim, WA 98382


2) I’d love to publish contributor reviews! If you’d like to write a poetry chapbook review, you will find instructions on how to submit once the site goes live.

. . . and as for musings, I uncovered this list of things I jotted down somewhere that I thought I wanted to write about. It’s an interesting list, showing a certain frame of mind I may have been in at the time:

  • suicide notes, particularly Jumpers
  • earthquakes specifically “the big one”
  • Cosmology: constellations, seyfirt galaxies, singularities,  gravitational waves
  • Dementia, aphasia, amnesia, failures of memory
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Sunday Morning Muse, Minus an Hour

I struggle this morning. Whether to read poems, or write them.
I’ve lost an hour. Where did it go?
I hate subordinate clauses that are followed by non sequiturs.
I hear slips all the time—like tinnitus, like a mosquito’s whine, like a seagull’s cry.

I read poems I could never write. I read them aloud.
They make me cry. Because what is wise is always also sad.
Wisdom has failed me again, hiding behind its clever sister.
I overhear cunning all the time, like a gunshot, like an IED, like a cop car’s siren.

Such a queue of things to do. It takes an hour just to read it.
I’ve lost that hour, so what to do?
If I were to write without censoring, would it be wisdom, or cunning?
I’ve words floating in my mind all day, like crickets, like hummingbirds, like bees.

If it is better to write something than nothing, would I dare write truth?
This is not a non sequitur. I’m quite serious. I need to know.
This morning I’ve lost an hour. It happens all the time.
Like an accidental nap, like a stomach ache, like a funhouse mirror.

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Not-about-me poem, on the occasion of my 69th Birthday.

Dear S.

Thanks for your email.

As to your concern for my well-being, I’ve nothing to complain about. My eyesight is wretched, but nothing’s worth seeing. The doctor has me drinking (water) and dropping (liquid tears). Ha-ha! At least I still have a sense of humor.

I don’t think I’ll make the trip back East this year. What with the walker and all, I fear I’d take a fall and break my hip, and you know, that would be the end.

Last summer, I tried to withdraw from Prozac, a foolish gesture. I do have those thoughts from time to time. I won’t pretend I don’t find most people endlessly shallow. Is that a felony? I’ve not replaced Jezzy, who died in my arms, a needle in her paw, without elegy. I don’t mind being alone. I prefer my own company.

Still, after all my ambition, I’ll never own a home or publish my novel. Remember in high school, how I’d run wild, chasing girls, climbing trees to query clouds, that sort of thing. Once in Miami, on a dare, I jogged around a city block wearing nothing but Nikes. I may have fallen hard for someone back then, but what do you know in your twenties? Still, I didn’t expect life to fall so short or to be so unlucky in love.

My days are delayed orgasms that will never climax..

I don’t plan rash action. There will be dinner, if I wash dishes and peel potatoes. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I probably won’t write again. Bills pile up, they won’t let me drive now, and I’m busy giving things away.

All best, R.

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Sunday Morning Missing Musing

I have missed blogging for a few weeks. I have been tossing spheres in the air, sandwhiching commitments between committments strewn with distractions. But I am happy to say that I am overwhelmed with all things poetry. My review of Lynn Melnick’s “Landscape with Sex and Violence” is up at The Rumpus. I have an essay onboard for the series Writing About the Living at the Town Crier, curated by Lauren Davis; a blurb to write; seven books that I’ve agreed to review over the next few months; and preparation for attending AWP for Headmistress Press, which is suddently right around the corner. I am tossing submissions and devouring rejections. I have a manuscript floating belly up in the roiling sea of poetry.

On the home front, the Olympic peninsula did entertain a magnificent snow show over the past couple of weeks, which was more than a distraction, and my heat and my washing machine are on the blink, piles of laundry are everywhere and I finally got some wood for the wood stove. I’ve scheduled a mammogram. I have announced a retirement date, which is now less than a year away. When I retire, I want to become a poet.

Thanks to Petrichor for publishing “Bee Season”,  which sums up a lot for me at this moment in my living. 

Bee Season

          I dream of bees when I drip honey
          onto challah and apple slices. Season of harvest
          moon, new school year. Time of reckoning:
          Has enough grain has been stored for winter?

          Later is a moment poised like a diver
          over a pitch-black abyss. I wonder how we bear
          all this repetition. A perennial forecast of repeats:
          jack–o-lanterns, latkes, dyed eggs, mammograms.

          I bake honey cake for Rosh Hashanah.
          When darkness saturates winter I think about suicide.
          I always do, and I know that I always do, and so I know
          it will slowly ebb and I will outwit it. Again.

          I fast on Yom Kippur, but forget to pray.
          Drunk, I confess sins I did not commit.
          I place a stethoscope on every heart,
          grant clemency to every penitent.

          I will retire in seedtime. At Pesach.
          Will I be like one of those men who retire
          and find themselves at a loss for meaning?
          Who fail quickly, die shortly?

          I’m searching for the layer of sticky sweetness
          that is so hard to find. Not this honeycomb
          ensconced in a wrecking ball, these seismic shifts,
          this loss of habitat. The disappearance of bees.

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Sunday Morning Muse in Miami

I spent the past week in Delray Beach at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival and now I’m spending a couple of days in Miami with my son (my sun) and family. It’s chilly and rainy here today, but I’ve been promised (after waffles) a drive through the arts district at Wynwood. Last night my grandson treated me to poke at a cool South Beach style spot. It’s a different Miami than I remember from living here in the seventies.

I’ve never been to the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, now in its 15th year, despite my ties to Florida, in part because the equally amazing Port Townsend Poetry Festival is right down the road from my house on the Olympic Peninsual where I live, which I’ve attended for the past 8 years. But the festival here was pretty jam- and star-packed. I did a workshop all week with the ethereal Ararcelis Girmay and listened all week to readings and craft talks with Greg Pardlo, Eleanor Wilner, Sharon Olds, Tyehimba Jess, Ellen Bass, Nickole Brown, and more. It was a really wonderful and renewing week for me.

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Sunday Morning Muse in Flight

I am traveling all day on Sunday and will end up in West Palm Beach where I will be attending the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Will send dispatches from the field.

Faculty includes: Ellen Bass, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Stuart Dischell, Aracelis Girmay, Campbell McGrath, Gregory Pardlo, Matthew Olzmann, Chase Twichell, Eleanor Wilner,  Lorna Blake, Sally Bliumis-Dunn, Nickole Brown and Stephen Gibson. Special Guests: Sharon Olds and Poet-At-Large Tyhimbe Jess

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Sunday Morning Muse in 2019





My first blog post of 2019– and it’s already nearly 1/2 way through January!  I have re-committed to posting on this blog on most Sundays again this year (I think I made at least 45 Sundays in 2018), in tandem with the Poetry Blog Network, which has a new badge, thanks to Kelli Agodon, and continues to be digested and disseminated by Dave Bonta. I want to thank and acknowledge everyone in this network who faithfully blogged in 2018, and made me feel like I belong to a poetry family.

If I were the type to make resolutions for self-improvement, I would resolve to start doing yoga again, schedule a mammogram, get outdoors more, and lose some weight.  But I’m more the type to break, rather than keep, promises to myself. So I’ll just say I have some goals for the next 12 months or so, which are some of my commitments to poetry.

  1. Publish at least 12 reviews of books of poetry.
  2. Start a new website devoted to reviews of poetry chapbooks. (BTW, if anyone wants to join me in this endeavor, just email me at
  3. Accrue at least 50 rejections of poetry submissions to journals, and 10 rejections of my current manuscript. (I’m not quite ready for the 100 club!)
  4. Read, read, read. Write, write, write.

Also planning to attend the Palm Beach Poetry Festival this month; share a booth for Headmistress Press with Lana Ayers of MoonPath Press at AWP in Portland in March; do a workshop with Carl Phillips at the Port Townsend Writers Conference in July and meet monthly with the Upper Room Poets for workshopping poems.

Most notably, I plan to retire in 2020 (which probably won’t mean leaving healthcare entirely, but a big workload reduction) to clear up time for more poetry-related activity. And, after I retire, I hope to plan a road trip across the US to visit with poets that I’ve only so far met in cyberspace.

We never know how much time there will be to accomplish all that we hope to accomplish. Be alert while you are alive. Do what you can. Always remember that the most important thing is to be kind.

Take care of your health and get plenty of rest.   

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Sunday Morning A/muse/ment

Though not much in touch with popular amusements, I am touched by bemusement. I like to think of amusement as,  to be beguiled by the muse. And she is always here somewhere, waiting to distract me from ordinary thoughts in order to move me towards more ineffible states of being. 


Like the sensation I woke to this morning that tugs at me to write a poem with the word frottage in it.  I recall hearing this word from the lips of my first woman lover, perhaps I was dreaming of her? I now recall that it is an art technique, which also involves rubbing. The metaphors abound. 

And regarding 2019: I want to start a new blog for reviewing poetry chapbooks. I’m trying to figure out where/how to do this so that it will get some visibility.  I’d also be happy to buy your chapbooks, and review them. Please send me links and any suggestions you might have for this project. And what to call it?

And regarding 2018: Grateful to have survived this year and wishing everyone a better 2019. I am now 14 months ahead of turning 70, and sailing towards retirement. This is a theme I can’t quite wrap my mind around yet.  




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