May and All

It’s May. Finally. And typical of May, I see verdant things and bright bloomers where I swear snow piled or rain pooled one hot minute ago. It’s such a vibrant month in my pocket of the world. There is the high drama of another school year coming to an end (my 28th) contrasted with the promise of summer adventures: Endless roads to travel, new-to-me coffee shops and hole in the wall cafes, meeting strangers who somehow become friends. I adore summer and ride that pony until I’m reminded of what I do for this living and turn around to head home.

May is much like the interior of my email inbox right now; varied and eclectic. It bridges this spring with its publication notices, publication opportunities to come, and the business of the day that needs tending.

I published “Of Paper Moons, Glimmered Words” in the Spring 2023 issue of October Hill Magazine. I’m happy to publish with them again. They assemble a sweet journal, and it was three years ago that I not only published in their winter journal, but was invited to read my work at an online reading. It was a cozy assembly and the kindness of editors during Covid is certainly an event and aspect that lingers even today. A wonderfully warm reading all the way around.

I have shared gratitude for the editors at Cosmic Daffodil Journal who published three of my short poems: “Untitled,” “Early Spring,” and “This Pot” in their Buds & Blooms issue.

My advice to you? Write on through all the delights this month will bring. Summer is all too short. Find all the ways necessary to collect, savor, and share those words.

It’s National Poetry Month, Peeps!

It’s April and poetry friends near and far are scrambling to post their daily poems. I admire their efforts, I really do, as I have jumped into this marathon before. Fill a month, many months, a year even with poems. The end result has always offered a plethora of writing to revise, edit, move into the publishing world.

In the little galaxy of my high school Creative Writing class, my students last week engaged in several “Poem in Your Pocket” activities listed out by the Academy of American Poets. After a weekend, they returned to class Monday to report out on what they tried. Many called, texted, or even emailed their poems to friends and family members. Some folded their poems into origami cranes to test their seaworthiness. Others filmed their reading efforts from porches and other outdoor spots. A few poems landed on the community bulletin board at Sea Mart, our grocery store with a parking lot that extends into the ocean and where most of town takes their sunset photos to include our local volcano, Mt. Edgecumbe, or L’ux as it’s named in Lingít Aaní. There’s nothing better than taking poetry out of its expected setting (book, classroom). Taking it for a walk and seeing where it might land you.

This past winter put me in the seat facing my laptop. I returned to the groove of not only writing regularly, but submitting work regularly to poetry journals. And the results of those efforts have been just a little staggering. For example, in a two-week period in late March/early April, I published a dozen poems in a handful of journals. I can’t say I’ve had such a streak before: 12 acceptances, 1 rejection. It makes me hopeful, and keeps me writing.

It may be months yet before actual publication in some instances, but some returns are beginning to land on my desk, including a few from the mail this week. Huge shout out and much gratitude to editors everywhere, but in this moment to the editor of Tidal Echoes, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, and Wingless Dreamer. These covers are beauties and welcome spring to my desk.

Happy Poetry Month! Carry on.

Reading the Open Wound of War:  A Review of Westheimer’s, A Sword in Both Hands

February 23rd revealed the one-year anniversary of Putin’s war on Ukraine. I remember well its start, the sound of bombs dropping on faraway cities over the airwaves of NPR, CBC, BBC.  It was a year ago this day that President Volodymyr Zelensky’s name began to roll off our tongues and appear in social media memes that ultimately hinted not only of his personal and charismatic strength, but wide support of his country’s sovereignty. I remember my own anguish at this unjust act of aggression at the heels of the world weathering Covid and just beginning to emerge from the controlling grip of the pandemic. Simply unfathomable.

As is the way of poets and readers, we seek the trail of words that will offer us greater understanding of not only ourselves, but the greater world around us.  It was with great anticipation that I awaited publication of Dick Westheimer’s poetry collection A Sword in Both Hands:  Poems Responding to Russia’s War on Ukraine (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2022).  And was well worth the wait.

I’m struck first by the beauty of the cover created by Ukrainian artist Olga Morozova.  It captures the blue and yellow tones that have surfaced widely in the support of a country whose flag sports these very colors of field and sky.  It’s a lovely accompaniment of color and energy to the book’s poems and represents the strength, beauty, and spirit of those under siege.

The book is dedicated to “the people of Ukraine and refugees and truth-tellers everywhere.”  In fact, a visit to Westheimer’s blog will not only walk you through news articles that inspired the writing of his poems, but acknowledges that all proceeds from this collection will go to the Ukraine Trust Chain which is a network of volunteers that works to move people from war-torn areas in Ukraine to safe zones.

“Holodomor” leads the collection, unveiling a methodical listing of disappearance and death in the shade of year of war:  Fish, songbird, the good, the generous, “the prostitutes [that survive] their johns.”  As the poem moves outward, it ends with the idea that we all too often share, “that it can’t happen here.”  Poems following document the everyday:  Shuffling the cards for Durak, a long-played card game, the baking of bread, scouring of pots and pans, the trash collector going about his business of lifting and emptying cans, while young clubbers stumble their way home.  War is at the edges, but not yet trampling upon the moment.

One of the clear news to poetry connections is that of the poem, “A Ukrainian Woman Confronts a Russian Soldier in Henechesk.”  This, widely reported on at the time, recalls the occasion of a woman asking an enemy soldier to carry sunflower seeds in his pocked so that they may sprout upon his death in her country.  The poem begins with the question, “What seeds will you carry?” and ends with the reflection, “What will grow from the breakdown of your life / depends on the seeds you carry when that time arrives.”

As is the way of war, the innocent bear the brunt of destruction.  Neither children nor animals can escape the brutality of conflict and often surface in the poems gathered here. In his poem, “An Open Letter to the Poets, Editors, and Redditors Who Have Moved on from War,” Westheimer calls to task those whose duty is to stay the course, to continue writing about the conditions and consequences of the war, to not leave it to chase the story of the day, “billionaires in space” as example. His final stanza in this poem reads,

So here’s your prompt for next week’s poem: war

never ends.  The dead speak in blank verse.

The dispossessed scatter like bitter alyssum seed.

It is with a poet’s eye that I appreciate Westheimer’s exploration of form.  “Demi-Sonnet for the Dead” is just that, a half sonnet that reveals not the living, but the burying of those made victims of war. The speaker has a preference for pine-box or ash-urn burials, but never ditch or pit, and that burial, when done properly, requires “…one sifted fistful at a time, / dirt mixed with tears.  Sometimes blood.”  The collection’s concluding poem is “Ghazal for the Trees,” a fitting end that offers some hope that war is like seasons, that as it comes it also goes.  This ghazal hints of peace, of the song to be sung to trees.

Poet Dick Westheimer reminds us that while the war may not physically be outside our door, we nonetheless bear witness to these events and the stories that emerge. Overall, A Sword in Both Hands is a superb collection, and one to add to the shelf of keepers.

A Sword in Both Hands can be purchased from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.

Winter Illuminations

The weather is grim, friends. In recent weeks, the days have alternated from snow to rain, but often settling into a fine blend of sn-rain. Such is winter in the rainforest of Southeast Alaska. A few more minutes of daylight each week is the sole sign that spring is coming.

The continued indoor time has kept me hopping with pen and keyboard. Sheila-Na-Gig has held recently a series of poetry readings both in late January and through February to celebrate new publications! The time difference between there and here allowed me to partake in poet Simona Carini’s reading of her new collection of poetry, Survival Time. Such a bright gathering of work here, this is a book to add to the shelf.

Additionally, George Franklin’s new collection, Remote Cities, is soon to be released. I’m so eager to read this! And, there is a 20% discount on preorders if ordered by February 28th.

I’ve been quite motivated this winter to return to previous years’ efforts to write regularly and submit work weekly. Duotrope helps me achieve the latter.

Huge gratitude to both Duck Duck Mongoose Magazine and Compass Rose Literary Journal for publishing my work. The first picked up “Lavender Shortbread in February” for Issue 4: Valentines. Compass Rose picked up “No Headstone” for their Inaugural Issue.

Happy writing!

Untangling by Beach, Military Poetry, and Salmonberry Dreams

Weekend mornings are for writing, and submitting writing, and keeping the coffee hot and topped off. This morning, I’ve supplemented that routine with the read of an interview, the listen to a podcast, and a read of an article written by poet friends; each piece as diverse and wonderful as the thinker writers behind it. Worth your time to read and listen and marvel. Thank you, Eric Coughlin Hollowell, Lisa Stice, and Vivian Faith Prescott.

Top 9 of 2022

There’s a Top Nine app that’s supposed to recap your Top Nine Instagram posts at the end of a year. Try and try again, it seems to gather not my top viewed posts, but the most recent nine photos. Maybe I’ve downloaded the wrong app, or perhaps I’ve misunderstood its intent. At any rate, I thought I’d recap my Top Nine writing moments of the year. And not use an app to do so, follow head and heart, instead. These are listed in no particular order.

  1. It’s nearing the end of 2022 and I’m on Winter Break. I’ve spent the morning reading the newest SheilaNaGig Winter 22, Vol. 7.2 and am overjoyed to have a couple of poems included in this issue. I’m humbled to have my work included among the work and pages of such poets as George Franklin, John Palen, Marc Swan, Jeff Burt, Laura Ann Reed, SE Waters, Dick Westheimer, and more. Thank you to editors Hayley Mitchell Haugen and Barbara Sabol for leaving the lights on and offering writers such an amazing space to publish. I am quite sure the candle burned at both ends to send this out to the world on Christmas Eve and the reading is just the gift it was intended to be. If you like poetry with stars, this is the perfect issue to read. Dick Westheimer’s chapbook, A Sword in Both Hands: Poems Responding to Russia’s War on Ukraine is soon to be published by SheilaNaGig Editions, so of course I’ve pre-ordered a copy. Note that both editors have newly published collections this fall, Mitchell Haugen’s The Blue Wife Poems (Kelsay Books, 2022) and Sabol’s Connections (Bird Dog Publishing, 2022 and in collaboration with Larry Smith).
  1. Blue Canoe Writers continues to be my weekly go-to for writing inspiration and share. This Southeast Alaskan writing group has been together for nearly 10 years now and has met and morphed in various settings from one house to another. Since Covid, we continue to meet via Zoom with members calling in from both Sitka and Wrangell, Alaska. I’m so very thankful for this group of friends.
  2. My stint as 2022 Tidal Echoes Featured Writer/Poet was an amazing experience! I was thrilled to present and read for this literary journal’s April launch. Emily Wall and student editors Emily Bowman and Shaelene Moler compiled quite an array of both writing and artwork. Tidal Echoes offers such a slice of Southeast Alaska pie with all the berries, warmed up, a la mode. I’m longtime grateful for this journal and its spring launch. Its annual arrival in my mailbox hints of summer days ahead and more writings to gather.
  3. Because it is winter break, I’m enjoying a new stack of poets and their books. To the immediate right of my living room thinking chair is a steaming mug of Cinnamon Plum tea and the following December reads: Musical Tables (Billy Collins), Obituary of Light: The Sangan River Meditations, Origami Dove, Expultatory Lilies (Susan Musgrave), Wind, Trees (John Freeman), Calling from the Scaffold (Gary Gildner), Sharks in the Rivers (Ada Limón), The Oysters I Bring to Banquets (Gary Geddes), Midwinter Day, Milkweed Smithereens (Bernadette Mayer), along with the outlier prose, Our Missing Hearts by Celeste NG. I am ever thankful to those who post their reading recommendations on the socials as I pay close attention – thank you, Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Vivian Faith Prescott, and Dave Bonta.
  4. While on the topic of Dave Bonta, I’m incredibly thankful not only for his weekly Poetry Digest which has introduced me to the thoughts of poets near and far, but my days typically begin with a subscription email that offers a reflection of his for the day, usually rooted in an observation of the natural world. And with the time difference between where he writes and Alaska, I usually read this in the dark hours of my morning, as I scramble to ready for work, or take the more leisurely weekend approach to the day. Both digest and reflection remind me to align more closely to daily writing, something I used to do. Something I was good at doing. Something I’m moving closer to again.
  5. Enough songs cannot be sung to honor the thriving spirit of the Independent Bookstore. I capitalize this to represent all indie bookstores and their efforts to keep the doors open in days of e-books and mass Amazon ordering. Sitka is quite lucky to have Old Harbor Books. This fall, I ordered with Parnassus Books in Ketchikan. I’d hoped they could deliver on some titles published by Canadian poets and was delighted that they could. Do check them out on their Facebook page.
  6. The year isn’t quite over, but I thank the following journals for offering my work a home among their pages: Trailer Park Quarterly, The Bluebird Word, Tidal Echoes, Young Ravens Literary Review, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Plum Tree Tavern, Cervena Barva Press, Gnashing Teeth Publishing, Musing Publications Magazine, Red Alder Review, Wingless Dreamer, and White Stag Publishing. Over the moon!
  7. It was quite special to have my poem, “Prayer for the Wilderness” publish in the anthology, Worth More Standing (Caitlin Press, 2022). Edited by Christine Lowther, this anthology is a collection of work that pays homage to trees, to standing forests. I was thrilled to publish among pages with poets Emily Wall, Elizabeth Bradfield, and Susan Musgrave.
  8. In Writing Down the Bones, poet Natalie Goldberg shares that the best writing journals dwell in the form of the inexpensive notebook. Grocery stores are notorious for supplying these in July and August as summer transforms into not quite another season, but another school year. I’m so guilty of purchasing the blank book beauties, those sneakily stocked as impulse items in the bookstores I frequent. Leather-bound, gold-edged, soft-papered Queens awaiting their Reign of Words. Only these Queens tend to stack up on my bookshelf and gather dust, much too pretty for my chicken scratch handwriting. Until October. In October, I stumbled upon and reunited with the old Composition Books of long ago, only these sport glitter covers! I was immediately smitten! Goldberg was right about these $2 specials. They don’t care about my handwriting. And I love the feel of yesterday’s ink pressing itself into the next day’s blank page. Win-win!

So this is my Top Nine of 2022. May the New Year provide us all the spark and kindle of new writing and creative thought. Happy 2023!

Plum Tree Tavern Autumn Moon Festival 2022

Plum Tree Tavern’s Innkeeper Russell Streur emailed not long ago to share publication news of Autumn Moon Festival 2022. As stated in his notice:

81 writers and artists are represented in the edition.  Many thanks to each for the contributions.

The issue is built around several sections or chapters.  An individual’s work may be posted in one or more sections of the issue.  The editor naturally hopes that everyone reads the complete issue.  But to quickly locate in which section(s) your work is placed, click on your name in the Contributors category in the right hand column of the issue.  The sections in which your work appears will generate on the left hand side of the page.  

In addition to the individual contributions, links within the issue will lead to anthologies of Japanese poetry in the public domain, woodblock prints,  and other material related to the issue.  The Welcome statement of the edition describes the contents and organization in detail.

Some minor editing was performed to make the presentation of haiku consistent. Generally, to accord with standard practices and with limited exceptions: titles were eliminated, lines were left justified, capitalization of the first letter of lines were replaced in lower case with the exception of proper nouns, ending periods were eliminated.

I’ve always enjoyed the economy of haiku, that gathering of energy to be present in the very short moment. In fact, in this very moment, the late November sun is beginning its descent into the Pacific Ocean, a fine view from an unorganized desk. Plum Tree Tavern is always a joy to read and I’m thrilled to have work appear in this issue.

Magic Lost & Found: Young Ravens Literary Review

I’m delving deep into the collection of summer emails this week, maybe in an effort to get organized, maybe still pining for more carefree days. I came upon the notification that Young Ravens Literary Review had published not only a poem about my dad, “Not Harry Houdini,” but a photo I’d taken out at Starrigavin of a raven. I’m thrilled that both have a home in these pages. Editors Sara Page and Elizabeth Pinborough assemble a fine collection of work, so do check it out. They are currently gathering work through December 13th that explores and celebrates womanhood.

Young Ravens Literary Review, Magic Lost & Found

Gary Glauber’s Collection of Poems, Inside Outrage

In the last breath of September, it was my pleasure to attend and celebrate Gary Glauber’s new collection of poems, Inside Outrage (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2022).  He read beautifully via Zoom.  His selected poems touched upon an array of topics:  Love, Mr. Rogers, teaching, poetry, civil justice at Starbucks.  It was the perfect antidote to the drumming of the atmospheric river and wind pummeling the windows outside, allowing me to disappear inside, into words for an hour that passed too quickly this afternoon.

With a shelved and bespectacled Homer Simpson over one shoulder and a guitar over the other, Glauber began his reading with his poem, “Blocked,” one he explains celebrates a lifetime of poetry.  The poet reminds readers, “Let us celebrate the infinity / of our limited mortality…” It is also one that considers time and the travel of, the “…inestimable unknowable” that is “much like a poem.”

A teacher, just one of his many career hats, some of his poems explore education, from setting to art.  “Learning to Read” and “Have You Graded the Essays, Yet?” are both essential explorations of educational experience from knowing both sides of the desk.  The latter, especially, is relatable, right down to the red pen and the questions even my own high school students ask, “Why don’t we read / anything with a happy ending?” and “Do we need an introduction / and a conclusion?”  Here, too, the speaker contemplates student immunity to the very changes his red pen marks, the indication of editing ahead, and proceeds to muse that for students, “Writing / is a lost art, along with reading.”  We can all hope not.

There are so many reminders in his poetry of what is to be human and the lessons we’re all bound to learn one way or another. Glauber’s collection is one to savor, and add to the keeper shelf for future returns.

Cover art by Loree Harrel, Digging a Hole in Tomorrowland