My poem “How to Create a Family Myth” has been published in Volume 6 of the esteemed literary magazine, The American Journal of Poetry Many thanks to editor Robert Nazarene for taking this piece.
This prose poem belongs in Kin Types: it’s about Kalamazoo and my grandfather’s stories.
This is the house in the poem:
Additionally, I discovered a cool journal called Defuncted that takes poems that were published in literary journals that are now defunct. They published four poems in one collection and then a fifth poem is separate because it had unusual formatting. I love the photos they put with the poems, too.
I’ve been doing some more reading again lately. Here are two poetry books that I swooned over.
In Caroline Goodwin’s new poetry collection, the elegiac The Paper Tree, language seeks to locate and identify. This is where and what, the poems seem to say. The mood can be mournful, commemorative, meditative.
Images from nature are seeds blown into the wind by the poet in an act of claiming. The urgent need of the poems, intense as it is, ebbs for a moment when hope soars for “a new kingdom . . . where the need to name the shape / does not even exist.” For now, the kingdom itself does not exist, but the glimpse of it has been noted.
Ultimately, the outward gestures of naming and sowing images lead to a necessary inwardness: “hold out your hands / open your heart / here’s where the world slides in.” The Paper Tree will present you the world if you open yourself to its wonders.
Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit, Susan Swartwout’s latest poetry collection, finds the beauty and pathos in the oddities of life. Family history, carnival performance, time spent in Honduras—the subjects are varied, which further emphasizes that our lens can be adjusted to spot the strange and wonderful—or the pitiful—anywhere we look. The language is gutsy, the images sometimes grotesque and sometimes mystical. I found this collection impossible to put down, and poems like “Five Deceits of the Hand” where “we” are betrayed into aging and death thrilled me with jealousy.
Friends vanish like misplaced directions
into skies you used to claim. Age begins
sucking your bones until you lean shriveled
into the mouth of harvest.
In case you’re worried that the book ends on a dark or depressing note, the last word is salvation. I guess you’ll have to read the book to see if that means things work out ok or not.
Maybe I finished my diamond poem (the one I mentioned in Typical Tuesday). Letting it rest right now.
I used #amwriting as a tag this week because I started looking through my memoir manuscript with an idea to restructuring it AGAIN. This is so insane. But look at it this way, what happens over many decades has to be structured in a way that is easy for the reader to follow and stay engaged. Most memoirs take place over a much briefer period of time (is briefer a word?), but the story I want to tell begins at least when I was 11, but truly long before I was born, and doesn’t end until this past decade. PULLING MY HAIR OUT.
Which reminds me that I wanted to share that Perry is in absolute love with his hairbrush. Yup. He hugs it.
One of the books I bought at the used bookstore was The Girl on the Train. It was a fairly suspenseful thriller, but it had some pretty big flaws. For one, a lot of the book is taken up by holding the main character’s hand while she drinks. Yeah, she’s a very tedious alcoholic. Boring. Then I figured out the solution to the mystery by the middle of the book, so the ending was a big letdown. None of the characters were likable.
Strangely, the book felt like it was written by Paul (not Paula) Hawkins. This is not meant as a negative about books by men or anything like that. And I’ve never really thought to myself about whether a book was written by a man or woman–I never cared. But I was haunted by the feeling that a woman couldn’t have written this book. It was kind of odd.
All that said, I read the book in one day, so it was a suspenseful read.
I went to California and thought I’d visit the little free library. Since I had just finished reading The Girl on the Train and didn’t have anybody I wanted to subject give it to, I thought I’d walk there and do a switch. When I arrived at the house with the little library, I noticed that the front door was open and a little wire-haired cutie (dog) was walking down the front yard. I kept approaching the library, wondering if the dog was supposed to be outside as he/she wasn’t wearing a collar. Just then a yellow lab came running out of that open door. The lab was not happy with me and ran toward me, growling in an aggressive manner. I walked across the street and turned back in the direction I came from. That was disappointing, considering I like being able to walk to a little library. And I couldn’t help but think of the children’s books in the library and what could have happened if a child had been walking there at that moment.
Later, the gardener drove me over there and I did the swap. I ended up with a book called Earnest about . . . (get this) a yellow lab.
Reminding you that I will be taking down these 30 posts in the very near future :). Maybe you’ll see them in the future in some other form or “location.”
This post has been EDITED. The disappearance of that last poem: a mystery. It went the way of the other September poems–back into my writing box.
If you have enjoyed reading these one day poems, you might like my book Doll God where the poems have had a little more time coming into the world. It’s now a Finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards!!!
Alaska native Caroline Goodwin’s first poetry book, Trapline (Jackleg Press), is set at the edge–of the sea, the swamp, the wilderness. To get a feel for her poetry, imagine yourself walking along the shore, encountering “rot and salt,” dragonflies, gnats, the quahog and cockle. Then imagine focusing in on each treasure, closer and closer until you see a wing or an eye and then inside the organism. Once you’re amongst the blood vessels with your magical microscope, Goodwin will connect what you see to the human you through a hand, a thigh, a boot. What you discover will be big and beautiful and brutal.
The first poem offers an invitation to the reader: “come to the end of the wharf / when the last of the tide releases / the harbor with its trollers / and rigging _ _ its lampshells / and speckled anemone _ _ come / after work when the mind / / has grown plumes.” [The double underscore represents a larger space in the line. Since WordPress isn’t friendly to poetry, I had to make do.]
You will want to take Goodwin up on this invitation. You can click on the book above to order from Amazon. I didn’t get a free book for recommending Goodwin’s poetry; I simply bought her book and fell in love with the poems.
Here is a sample poem for your enjoyment:
I can see how the termites
draw themselves through
the opening now
to rise out of the hive
in a flickering stream
every leg full of
sun every abdomen a
jewel and I let myself
think about the un-
born and the almost
born — eggs packed
in brittle shells
in the wings
scraping at the crumpled
his song a thin leg
. . . . . . . . . at the edge of the yard
[I had to add the ellipses to indicate a long space.]