Category Archives: Poetry

Let’s Keep National Poetry Month in Mind

If we keep National Poetry Month in mind throughout April maybe it will take the edge off social distancing through April 30. As for Arizona, we were put on a stay-at-home order on Monday that is to last through April.

So: National Poetry Month. For the second year in a row, I like the poster. For years I couldn’t stand the posters, then last year they had a contest and chose a design by a high school student. And it was great.

They did the same thing this year, and I love the result. The assignment was to submit artwork that incorporated line(s) from the poem “Remember” by current U. S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo that “reflected a celebration of the art of poetry.”

This poster was designed by Samantha Aikman, a 10th grader.

Honorable mention went to senior Kai Huie:

It is also National Poetry Writing Month or NaPoWriMo. Try your hand at writing a poem a day!

So happy April. And HAPPY 16TH BIRTHDAY TO TIGER QUEENIE PRINCESS MIMI JOSEFINA.

Nobody can do resting bitch face like my little princess

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Reporting In

Reporting in from the pandemic, as I sort of promised last week. Not going too stir crazy yet, although my concerns about all the changes to our collective and individual as-planned futures has me a bit shocked.

I wrote a few poems about the Thing happening to us, as I mentioned last week, but have agonized over a weird about-what? poem all week on and off. One of my pandemic poems is coming out in the anthology Poetry in the Time of Coronavirus, ed. G. A. Cuddy. I read a bit of it for PITTOC, and they posted it on their Instagram account. I reposted it on my Instagram account. The poem is called “Another Elephant Poem,” of course related to the elephant in the room.

Another one of my pandemic poems was published by Headline Poetry and Press: Monkey Mind

I would not call either one of these poems uplifting. They simply are. The third poem I sent out to a journal so we’ll see: that poem is a bit more upbeat.

On a positive note, Hermione Wilds reads one of my pre-pandemic poems on Youtube.

You know that video found on Instagram that I mentioned above?  I kid you not: I absolutely did not have this many wrinkles, bloatings, and sags before March. Yes, I am getting older, and my face is showing it. But, WOW, what a difference a month makes. I have not been sleeping well. Rather than having insomnia, I have been sleeping, but my sleep has been plagued by nightmares. One night the dream went on forEVER, with me trying to social distance and people not allowing it. No matter where I went, people crowded up around me.

Is that creepy or what, that I am apparently now afraid of people?!

Now here are some good doings.

Funny: at the cats’ dinner time I shut our bedroom door so Sloopy Anne doesn’t run in there after dinner. She likes to lie in wait for us, but she can’t sleep with us because she and Tiger get jealous of each other–and Tiger gets to sleep with us. So now the second I try to sneak to the bedroom door, Sloopy Anne anticipates and races me for the door. I keep trying to figure out ways to trick her, but she is ON to me. Pretty cute.

Making: I wrote a story about a fabric scrap for a page in my SCRAPS scrapbook. The edits took me all week. I might make two pages out of this one because the story is so long. Or I might just insert the story inside a pocket or somesuch and keep it all to one page. I haven’t started making the page yet, so I will have to see how it turns out.

Content: I’m so blessed to have my cats. I am celebrating Pear’s birthday today. She turns 20. I will celebrate Tiger’s birthday this week, too. She turns 16. They are the oldest of my six. All but Perry are seniors. As my poem “Monkey Mind” mentions, I wish everyone who is lockdowned or isolating had pets to give them love.

 

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Coronabub

Warning: crabby writer here.

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There are so many wonderful examples to the contrary. But they remain the minority.

What am I talking about?

Trustworthiness in humans. The coronabub (coronavirus hubbub) has made this clear to me. First there are the accounts you hear on TV and read online. Some experts say just go about your business, but wash your hands  a lot. Other reports say that those 60+ and/or with compromised immune systems (also heart or lung disease, etc.) should stay in their own homes and eschew even family events. Still other reports predict gloom and doom.

Because I am in the 60+ group and have had some lung issues in the past as an adult (also as a kid I was a magnet for every respiratory disease around), I am trying to pretend I am a crocodile that people want to stay away from (see photo below). I plan to be careful when I am out. But other people are not that careful. They still go to events where hundreds or thousands of people are attending. Even my own husband is not that careful when it comes to sanitizing and still doesn’t understand the concept of soap as necessity. He believes that big companies sold us on the idea of soap for them to reap the profits. So how does me being careful keep me safe if others I come in contact with are not careful?

The gardener calls me Howey Anne, after Howard Hughes and his infamous germaphobia. I would say that is a little extreme because I am not that paranoid. You have to consider the source. Person who thinks soap is unimportant thinks I am a germaphobe. Get it?

But I don’t like germs. I blame Oprah for an episode she filmed a long time ago about the germs in hotel rooms and your own shower head. ICK.

This coronavirus thing is causing me a lot of anxiety. I suppose it isn’t mentally healthy for me to be trying to keep my hands away from my face (an impossible task) and to be thinking about germs all the time.

I offer no comfort. Sorry if that’s what you need right now.

The gardener and I just got back from Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The first night we were there, the maid service left a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer in my room. I clung to it for the rest of the trip as if it were the last canteen of water in an unpopulated Sahara in a 1930s movie. It allowed me to fly home through two airplanes and four airports.

The trip was not the best, to tell you the truth. Coronavirus was only part of it. The worst was that the resort had accidentally cancelled our reservation back in September, but our travel agent never knew it. I am too tired from thinking about germs to tell you much about the trip, but the animals were fabulous, the Costa Ricans were nice, and the rest of it was not so great.

Then there was the driver who tried to scam us to the tune of $149 in Houston, the Houston hotel whose shuttle was out of commission but they neglected to tell us, and the bank that ripped our mortgage check and sent it back saying it was “torn in the mail” (LIE), thus dinging our credit. I mean, I could probably come up with a really long list like this. People just suck sometimes.

There are all the sad stories I read on Facebook about animals abandoned, neglected, and abused by humans. It never gets better.

The person who knowingly took his/her coronavirus ass to an event with hundreds of people.

I heard some people are stealing masks from hospitals. WTF!

Who would ever trust a human?

But without trust, where are we? We cannot live alone. It is impossible to be completely self-sufficient. What we do impacts others as well as ourselves. We can’t make it different. But we can try to do our best. In the worst of times, we need to be the best we can be.

Don’t brazen it out and go to major events and then drag your germs to other, more vulnerable people. Imagine being stuck in a nursing home right now–you can’t leave, but once coronavirus enters your facility, you would feel targeted. So be kind and think of other people.

OK, pretty sure my readers didn’t need that, but you might want to remind others!

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As far as photos of Costa Rica go, I have started (slowly) posting some on my Instagram account: catpoems.  Check them out if you’re interested!

Also, University of Chicago-based Memoryhouse Magazine has published my Whitman tribute poem, “Out of the Cradle.” It refers to “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” and the last two words are used as the initial letters for the lines of the poem. This issue, called “Rattle,” is a good one. You can find it here.

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I hope when I check back in here next Monday for my next post, the coronabub has burst, and all is back to normal.

Crocodile on the Palo Verde River, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

 

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Poem up at Entropy: Lots of Birds Going On

I am tickled that my poem “Noah and the Middle School Marching Band” has been published by the wonderful journal Entropy for their BIRDS series, and it’s accompanied by art by my friend Mary Stebbins Taitt, artist and naturalist. Mary and I met through Cowbird, a site where we both used to publish stories.

Here is a sample from the poem:

Look at them come. Godwits

and bushtits, catbirds and black-

crested titmice, I tickle their feet​

to move them along a little faster.​

Click the poem title to read the poem and see the accompanying art: NOAH AND THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MARCHING BAND

When I asked Mary if she would like to have one of her pieces accompany my poem, I was amazed at how many birds she had worked on.

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Noah is my favorite Bible character.

“Noah and the Dove” by Judith Klausner

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MY GOODREADS REVIEW OF A NEW POETRY COLLECTION, Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful by Matthew Lippman:

I am writing my feelings and thoughts about Lippman’s new collection while they are still fresh, but when I don’t have time to write a thorough review that does it justice. This is a mesmerizing (and sadly) beautiful book. These poems are the epitome of Lippman’s big-hearted writing. I could imagine him with his big aching heart carried outside his body while he wrote these poems. Nobody creates FEELING from a poem like he does. Feelings of love and sadness are all intertwined here. You can’t have love without sadness and you can’t have sadness without love. Read this book, everyone! This is a book that can save us from our over-thinking and our despair.

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I will be taking a blog break for a week or so (therefore, I closed comments here). See you when I return and stay safe, healthy, and calm in the meantime!

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Cinthia Ritchie’s Malnourished is a Tour de Force

Cinthia Ritchie, BRAG your book!  Start posting reviews or parts of reviews of your new memoir Malnourished on your blog cinthiaritchie.com because after I wrote mine I went on Amazon and saw some great reviews over there.

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Take a look at Cinthia’s book by clicking the image. It will take you to where you can purchase the book on Amazon AND where you can read reviews. This book is fabulous. It’s the kind of book that, if you’re a writer, makes you jealous because she gets it so right, word by word, white space by white space, chapter by chapter. Malnourished is a TOUR DE FORCE. No kidding.

I wrote a review that I will post on Amazon and Goodreads. It doesn’t do the book justice AT ALL. if you want to read a better review, read Carla McGill’s over on Amazon.

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Cinthia Ritchie’s memoir Malnourished is a strange and beautiful trek into the heart of a family. Ritchie has three sisters, and all four girls/women have been tragically affected by their upbringing in a home with a predatory stepfather, a mother who will not see the truth, and a deceased father.

While Ritchie’s sister’s death from anorexia is the catalyst for the book, the subject is Ritchie’s survival story. She shares how she and her sister Deena grew up together, how their relationship expanded and contracted over time, how she and Deena diverged in their responses to life, and where they were similar. While Ritchie claims never to have been an anorexic, she has a complicated relationship with food. Ritchie has exhibited starvation and other dangerous symptoms of emotional distress and control over her body. In this memoir, Ritchie manages to open up a space where we can think, discuss, soul-search human relationships with food as emotionally-charged metaphor and how that power plays out on our bodies.

Reading this story gave me insight into how personalities and desires are shaped by experience. For example, Ritchie is a serious runner who craves being outdoors. By reading Malnourished, I was able to feel what it would be like to need to run, to sleep outside under the stars. A small bedroom offers no place for a child to run from a menace that lurks inside the house, one which makes the walls complicit with the stepfather.

What I’ve written here might sound like Ritchie explains all this in the book. While she does reflect on her experiences, her gorgeous, lyrical writing does not “tell” the reader, so much as allow the reader into her world to figure things out for herself. Most importantly, Ritchie’s generosity in baring herself for scrutiny and understanding is such a gift to every reader.

Malnourished is not a comfortable read. It’s a work of art that nudges readers from our comfortable seats, from the comforting ways our minds purposefully arrange our interior landscapes. The beauty of the way Ritchie arranges her words will keep you going even through the darkest passages.

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Felix still has an upper respiratory infection. The vet says that it can last three weeks. Because he has to stay in the bedroom all this time (isolation), I have a lot of anxiety about him being lonely. Poor baby. Please send him healing vibes so he gets well soon and can be let out of the bedroom!

I started experimenting with writing weird poems about everyday subjects and objects, inspired by reading Matthew Lippman’s new poetry collection Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful. I’m not even done reading it yet!

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Rereading Plath

I just read Sylvia Plath’s Ariel: The Restored Edition. My parents gave me this copy, at my request, years ago. I think the hard copy (which I have) was published in 2004, so it might have been that year. While I have skimmed it many times, I hadn’t  really read it cover to cover until now.

But don’t think I’m a newcomer to Ariel, Plath’s final and most groundbreaking poetry. While I am not a Plath expert, especially since I have not been involved with the academic world for many years, I do have a lot of experience with Plath’s work.

For instance, I performed an oral explication of the poem “Fever 103” for my master’s thesis. This one will always be my favorite Plath poem.

Then for my PhD dissertation, I wrote a chapter about Plath and the “carnivalesque.”  But my favorite experience was writing a chapter,  “Higgledy Piggledy Gobbledygoo: The Rotted Residue of Nursery Rhyme in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry” for Betty Greenway’s Twice-Told Children’s Tales: The Influence of Childhood Reading on Writers .

More recently, I’ve had two poems published at Plath Poetry Project; I find her work helps open the floodgates of imagination.

I believe that Plath is one of the greatest 20th century poets in the English language. We could debate the possibility of a few others being in her league, but not many.

Don’t think I don’t see her flaws. For one thing, there are her personal flaws. She was not always the nicest person, and she could be a crazy bitch. She didn’t really try too hard to make herself a better person, just a better writer. If I had known her in person, I doubt I would have liked her.

Her writing has some flaws, too, but mainly because EVERYTHING is out there in public. If she had lived, she would not necessarily have published everything–and even if she had there are poems I believe she would have later revised or withdrawn from future editions of her books.

Back to the book I’m reading. Ariel was published posthumously, after Plath committed suicide, by the way. You need to know that to see where I am going with this.

This newer copy of Ariel includes all the poems Plath intended in the collection in the order she intended them. The original publication of Ariel featured a collection arranged and edited by her estranged husband, English poet Ted Hughes.

I experienced a very distorting and disturbing ride reading the collection Plath’s way.

I have always kind of hated Hughes for cheating on Plath, which started the beginning of her end. But he did a great job putting Ariel together–a much better job than the poet herself. Maybe she was too close to the project. Maybe she would have rearranged everything herself if she had lived. But Hughes did it and he did it well.

The collection as Plath left it has a lot of rot in it, if you ask me. Many of the poems do not seem strong. Poems that are in the Hughes version do not seem strong now. I can only conclude that the placement of the poems within the collection guide our reading. Surrounding poems add to the appreciation of particular poems.

I think “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus” are absolutely brilliant. So are a few others. But some others, hmm. I see her trying out images in some poems and then using them much better in others.

The biggest annoyance (actually makes me really angry) is the way Plath uses the black or African body as metaphor. In “The Jailer,” she includes the line: “Pretending I am a negress with pink paws.” This is no brilliant metaphor; rather, it’s stooping low to grab at an old-time stereotype, a vision of the “black body” as animalistic. No no no no.

There has been a helluva lot of discussion about her use of Holocaust victim imagery in her most famous–and other–poems. But those are not relying on old stereotypes, but rather employing poetic conceit, a term that means a metaphor that is stretched a bit extra and might even be shocking or strange, but that works. John Donne was the master of conceit, and he was one of Plath’s inspirations.

So I am disappointed to read this version. Plath’s latter poetry blew open American poetry, and for that she must be honored. But let’s be honest about the poems like “The Jailer” that just might suck.

Thank you, Ted Hughes.

NEVER thought I’d write those words.

#thisisnotabookreview

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OK, I don’t expect you to go another week without a Perry photo! Sometimes he is naughty, trying to instigate the other cats to play when they want to rest, so I zip him into his little playpen (which I have shown you before). So now if he’s naughty he runs into his little CUBE instead of the playpen because he thinks I will think he’s in time out, but in reality he can get out on his own. HAHAHAHAHA. He is so smart. And a nut.

 

And you might want to see another pic of my granddaughter Riley.

CUTE!!!!!!! But what do you think? Can you tell what breeds of dog went into making up this pretty girl? The shelter told my daughter she was part Australian shepherd. HAHAHA.

I think that might be a no. What breed dogs do YOU see in Riley? She is four months old and weighs ten pounds. I won’t tell you where my daughter and her fiance are leaning at this point because I don’t want to sway your opinion.

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Poem Up at Gingerbread House Literary Magazine

Founder and co-editor Christine Butterworth-McDermott really knows her way around a fairy tale. She understands their flexibility, responsibilities, and opportunities. So it was thrilling that she took one of my Red Riding Hood poems for the new issue of Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. 

You can read it here and see the beautiful artwork that was paired with the poem: Interrogation

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Poetry of Loss

The Plath Poetry Project is one of the most unique poetry projects around. The central event involves writing poems that are inspired by Plath poetry. The poems are accompanied by explanations of  the inspiration. PPP published a poem I wrote once before, and now they have published one I wrote based on Plath’s “For a Fatherless Son.”

by Sylvia Plath

You will be aware of an absence, presently,
Growing beside you, like a tree,
A death tree, color gone, an Australian gum tree —-
Balding, gelded by lightning—an illusion,
And a sky like a pig’s backside, an utter lack of attention.
But right now you are dumb.
And I love your stupidity,
The blind mirror of it. I look in
And find no face but my own, and you think that’s funny.
It is good for me
To have you grab my nose, a ladder rung.
One day you may touch what’s wrong —-
The small skulls, the smashed blue hills, the godawful hush.
Till then your smiles are found money.

 

My poem is “For an Adopted Child,” and if you read the poem and the explanation you will see how I came to write a darker poem about adoption.

For An Adopted Child

My children were adopted by the gardener and me as babies. My brother was also adopted by my parents as a baby. Although my kids are vocal about the positive side of adoption, that does not mean that they haven’t been scarred by the process of adoption. Adoptees aren’t born when they join their adoptive families. They have lives before that–perhaps a week, three months, or six years. They know loss before most other people. In the case of my kids, they are transracial adoptees, so that brings some more baggage along with it.

We’ve come a long way from the days when even educated people told adoptees they are lucky they were adopted, but there are still plenty of unenlightened people out there saying stupid stuff, never fear. It’s not lucky to lose your birth family, no matter what the circumstances. It’s not lucky to know loss so young.

I hope you appreciate “For an Adopted Child”; it’s one of my favorites.

 

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Poetry Parody

I’ve mentioned Diane Lockward’s poetry craft books before, as well as her free monthly newsletter. If you’re a poet or just want to try writing a poem, be sure to sign up for her newsletter HERE.

In October’s issue, she included a link to an SNL parody of  English teachers/poets/poetry readings. Wondering what you make of it!

If you don’t have time to watch the video, then just save it for later (if it appeals to you) and say HI. This past week ended up even crazier than the one before. We went to California for work. The gardener had a scary car problem on the fast-moving freeway–the car simply shut down and he had to coast to the left median and wait for AAA (thank goodness for AAA!). That is a sample of the week haha. To make up for it, I am starting a walking plan, which just means that I plan to walk more! There is a beautiful path near my house that isn’t too long and is easy on my bad foot.

Arizona Unfiltered as Seen From My Walk: Saguaro Hotel (for the birds)

Mom comes at the end of this week, so I need to catch up some of my work and get the house ready.

Are we officially into holiday season now?

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The Cat’s Way of Time

I’m still trying to stay on top of everything, but last week kicked me in the behind. If only I could clone myself. I used to like that movie Multiplicity where the man is cloned several times. Remember that? It wasn’t a great movie or a popular one, but Michael Keaton is one of my favorite actors. I am always hoping to clone myself, but that unlike the Keaton character in the movie, I can control the clones–perhaps even operate their brains ;).

Not only did I have a jam-packed week, but a lot of little stuff went wrong. My anxiety level increased as the stress did. I’m wondering if this anxiety is a byproduct of The Artist’s Way program. So far I’ve gotten some advice from a TAW Facebook group. We’ll see how it goes.

But I am happy to report that I snagged a 2020 publication this week.

Still, if only I could learn from my cats that time pools up between our paws when we let it do so. If we’re chasing after it, we’ll never catch it.

How’s about this Marge Piercy cat poem?

THE CAT’S SONG

Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness.
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing
milk from his mother’s forgotten breasts.
*
Let us walk in the woods, says the cat.
I’ll teach you to read the tabloid of scents,
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt.
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat.
*
You feed me, I try to feed you, we are friends,
says the cat, although I am more equal than you.
Can you leap twenty times the height of your body?
Can you run up and down trees? Jump between roofs?
*
Let us rub our bodies together and talk of touch.
My emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard.
My lusts glow like my eyes. I sing to you in the mornings
walking round and round your bed and into your face.
*
Come I will teach you to dance as naturally
as falling asleep and waking and stretching long, long.
I speak greed with my paws and fear with my whiskers.
Envy lashes my tail. Love speaks me entire, a word
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of fur. I will teach you to be still as an egg
and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass.
What a beauty of a poem.

Let’s all remember to honor VETERANS DAY today!

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