Category: Poets

Focus on Four: Reading Women Online 

There are some fantastic women writers writing interesting, enlightening, bold stories online but, sometimes, its not so easy to find those voices among the cacophony that is the internet. So. I’m going to share four women whose stories and poems stood out for me recently. Oh, I could share so much more but, if you’re like me, posts with a long list of  “what I read online” can be daunting. Why not focus on four gorgeous women and their writing?

First up is Lori Sambol Brody, a writer of incredibly good flash fiction that I discovered this summer. Lori has blown me away with her style, her subjects, and her innovative use of language. The story I’m linking to is the cream of the crop, IMO. Do google her to find more of her flash gems.

I Want to Believe the Truth is Out There” by Lori Sambol Brody in Jellyfish Review

“I will explore the basement of a cabin in the woods, the halo of my flashlight illuminating faint footprints, bleached femurs, vertebrae. I will drive down the Extraterrestrial Highway and sneak into Area 51. I will not remember how many times my memory has been wiped. On on-line forums for UFO abductees I ask: have you seen her?”

Julie Kane is one of my favorite poets and was Louisiana Poet Laureate for 2011-2013. She’s also an incredibly nice and giving person. I interviewed her for my now defunct blog, NOLAfemmes (do click over and read it), and was honestly surprised someone with her chops agreed to be featured in my little blog. I’m linking to her recent piece about studying under the great Anne Sexton. It’s not to be missed!

Last Class With Anne Sexton” by Julie Kane in The Dark Horse

“After collapsing into a chair, the first thing Anne did was to kick off her shoes. Then, with a husky voice and great cackly laugh, she asked us to go around the room introducing ourselves and reading one of our poems out loud. I hadn’t brought any poems with me that day, so I recited one from memory, about the women in my family at an Irish wake. Anne chortled her approval. But when a classmate’s poem responded to an ambulance siren with the line “that little thrill when they enter your neighborhood,” Anne let out a shriek. “No, no, it’s not thrilling at all!” she protested. “I should know. I’ve been in the back of too many of them myself.”

The next writer is Alexis Rhone Fancher whom I only discovered last week via a tweet. Her poems in Diode Poetry struck me as honest and fresh. Read and see what you think.

Two poems, “The Famous Poet Apologizes For Not Coming On To Me Sooner” and “The Famous Poet Asks Me For Naked Photos”, by Alexis Rhone Fancher in Diode Poetry

“4. The famous poet swears his wife

is cool with his serial betrayals,

that they inhabit different countries

in the same, small house.

But I’ve seen his wife at parties, how

his philandering makes her flinch,

the face of desperation, choked down,

Sylvia Plath style.”

Another writer I discovered last week is Elissa Altman. I don’t remember how I found her and her blog but I’m very excited I did. She’s an accomplished chef and food writer and I’ve become obsessed with reading her blog. I’m going into her archives to read and every single entry is a big wow. My link is to the first story I read and it’s all about letting go of  the material stuff on your life and the hurdles we face in letting go. It’s so good.

Cleaning the house, tending the weeds” by chef and food writer Elissa Altman in her blog Poor Man’s Feast

“After the painters left, we began to put things away. We stopped. It was overwhelming. A week went by. We couldn’t face the task. What to keep; what to weed out.

What are the memory triggers that bend our hearts? What are the things that break them?”

Such wonderful writing and reading is really an inspiration to me as a writer. We can learn so much from these and other writers about the craft of writing. Aren’t we the lucky ones?

Happy reading!

***

Feature photo is a close up of zinnias in my garden.

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Happy birthday, Lucille!

Lucille’s mother was a gifted poet with only an elementary school education. Her poetry was offered publication but Lucille’s father wouldn’t allow it and forced her to burn the poems in the fireplace. It’s said Lucille never forgot it and I’m sure it shaped much of her own poetry. About the incident, she wrote a poem called “fury”:
“her hand is crying. / her hand is clutching / a sheaf of papers. / poems. / she gives them up. / they burn / jewels into jewels.”

She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for two separate books in the same year: Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir (1987), and Next: New Poems (1987). She won the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats (2000); the 2007 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize; and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 2010, just before her death.

When I discovered Lucille’s work I felt energized. Her messages of empowerment and self-love are lessons every one of us should take to heart and put into practice. How great it must have been to hear her read in person. 


Photo via The New Yorker

Women Online: Great Reads You Shouldn’t Miss

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I LOVE this tweet by Kelli Agodon, writer and co-founder of Two Sylvias Press who has a great twitter feed. Just had to share. Anyone who writes poetry has had a version of this wonderment in their head at one time or another. But, thing is, if you’re born to write poetry your really don’t have a choice. I wrote when I was very young then didn’t for years and years, only coming back to it in my mid-30’s but it was always in my head. Fragments, bits and pieces, phrases….it was always in there because it’s just how I think. So, no. Absolutely no, we are not wasting our lives writing poetry. The following poems written by some of the best women writers around are some of the best examples why.

The Gods’ Funniest Home Videos by Rachel Kessler in Pank.

She’s the kind of ghost who would taste so sweet. What god hasn’t tried to put her in his mouth and suck her down to the core?

The Southern Girl’s Guide to Getting Your MRS Degree by Allie Marini in Drunk Monkeys.

if all else fails, remember that other thing I told you about sweet tea: if you forget to add the baking soda, or if you squeeze the teabags, it can get mighty bitter. bitter tea—even if it’s sweet tea—can hide a lot of things, just like any good wife who follows all the rules.

Bare Bones of It by Tabatha Stirling in Feminine Collective.

I used to crack jokes about you to
make my father like me better. They
were cheap shots, Babycham insults.

Nuclear Family Warfare by Jane Noel Dabate in Rattle.

The women in my family
paint their lips red
in a school teacher’s correcting pen.

Although this is primarily a post about poetry I couldn’t not steer y’all to the following two essays. They are both amazing in different ways. They will both make you think and, maybe, shed a tear or two. Do not miss reading these words.
It’s a Man’s World by Maureen Langloss on her blog.

The multiplicity of bullet points in a single month, drawn from church and state, school and home, corporation and playing field, are like bricks overhead—caving in over my body, stoning me, crushing me, obliterating me. I feel personally wounded, bereaved. I have always been a person of hope and faith that things would get better for women, that together we would make a more equal, less violent world. But today it finally dawns on me, at age 45, that things don’t always get better. In fact, they get worse. And those stones that are crashing in over my head are inside me now. Festering, growing moss. They are the stone my body has internalized, that my heart has become.

Light & Darkness
How Sharon Olds brought me back to writing by Maggie Smith on The Poetry Foundation.

Turning to Sharon Olds, to poems such as “Prayer During a Time My Son Is Having Seizures,” gave me the permission and the courage to write my most intimate, vulnerable, and direct work yet.

I’ve read some pretty wonderful fiction online lately, too, so I’ll try to get a post up about that soon.

Life is a freight train and it’s bearing down fast. Take care, y’all.

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Happy Birthday, Sylvia


“The hardest thing is to live richly in the present without letting it be tainted out of fear for the future or regret for the past.” ~ Sylvia Plath

Happy birthday, Sylvia.

I’ve been reading her poetry this morning – so relatable, so poignant – and thought I’d share one of my favorites. There are so many opinions of Sylvia: that she was a genius, that she was tragic, that she was only an appendage of Ted Hughes. I think she was a woman, flawed and beautiful, like most. I think she did the best she could. There’s no doubt she made her mark on contemporary poetry and for that I’m grateful.

I Am Vertical

But I would rather be horizontal. I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.
Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and the flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them–
Thoughts gone dim. It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.

***

Photo via The Early Hours.

Amalgamation: TV,Music,Poetry,& Missing the Moon

imageSo we’re a few days past the summer solstice and I missed seeing the strawberry moon which won’t coincide with the solstice again until 2062. I’m bummed that I missed it. July is a few days away which means we’ll be entering the hottest months of the year here, July through September. On these hot summer days I like to get my house chores and errands done in the morning so I can cool it a couple of hours in the afternoon watching a movie or a series on my Fire TV. I recently discovered Acorn TV with its ‘all Brit shows all the time’ line-up and I’m really liking it. Currently I’m watching Blue Murder which has a single mom as the lead detective bringing in all the issues that involves in addition to hunting down murderers. I really like the understated British personalities – such a welcome contrast to America’s in-your-face bravado. The only thing I find distracting about Brit crime drama is the uniforms of the street cops. Their uniforms are a kind of Charlie Chaplin/construction worker mashup with their black bowler hats and bright yellow jackets. It’s hard for me not to smirk when they come on-screen except for my hero, Catherine Cawood of Happy Valley who, I’m quite sure, could kick anyone’s ass. No gun needed.  Anyway, such good acting in Blue Murder, I recommend it. I’ve also started watching The Tunnel on PBS. I discovered it by chance when it came on after Masterpiece Mystery last Sunday night. It’s also a crime drama wherein a body is found in the middle of the Chunnel, half in France and half in Britain. The first episode was smart with its intriguing story-line. The dynamics between the French and English investigators is as interesting as the story which includes a few good psychologically tortuous moments.  Again, really good stuff.
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On this side of the pond is a new series on CBS called Brain Dead that I’m getting a kick out of. It’s a sci-fi political dramady that is decidedly fresh and entertaining and I’m very surprised it’s on network TV. If you haven’t checked it out, do. I think it’s gonna be a fun ride for hot summer nights.

Then this from Deadline Hollywood: Elisabeth Moss To Star In Straight-To-Series Drama ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ On Hulu   For this I’ll subscribe to Hulu. Moss is an excellent actor. She was my favorite character on Mad Men and starred in one of my favorite crime dramas Top of the Lake (also starring the great Holly Hunter). Plus, Handmaid is an iconic book that deserves a quality production. I hope it works out that way.

In poetry, here are three that I just loved this week:

ICYMI, Good Bones by Maggie Smith in Waxwing Literary Journal went viral very quickly on social media. In fact, I first heard of it via Twitter.

“The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children. “

Here The Guardian talks about the poem and the phenomenon.

Bad Love by Lakshmi Mitra in The Fem
“in bengal, says my grandmother, the women / are all ghosts.”

Still I Give Thanks by Marie Reynolds on The Writers Almanac
” I want my doctor to use the word “cure” just once.”

Finally, in music, I recently listened to a great interview with Mayer Hawthorne on On Point, an NPR show hosted by Tom Ashbrook. If you’re not familiar with Mayer, you need to fix that right away. He has a new album out, Man About Town, featuring his new single “Love Like That”. Check it out below:

And listen to the On Point interview here:  Mayer Hawthorne is a Musical Man About Town.

On Point is always interesting and I listen to it almost every morning. You can catch it locally on WWNO  week days 9am to 11am or listen to the podcast on their website.

Have a great week-end, y’all!

Hot Reads, Etc.

There’s so much good reading and listening on the Internet it’s overwhelming. How do you choose which piece to read,which podcast to listen to, which video to watch? And I’m always wondering if I’ve missed some really fantastic thing. In just the past few days I’ve read some really good stuff and, this morning, watched a very cool Periscope post by Indian chef Kalyan Karmakar. Do you watch Periscope? I downloaded the app a while ago but have only watched a couple of Lonely Planet posts. But when I logged on today there was a notification that this was streaming live so I watched and it was fascinating. Here are a few screenshots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The video was streaming from a train going from Delhi to Calcutta. There were stops along the way to visit local eaterys and restaurants amid conversations about Indian food and culture. Chef also has a blog called Finely Chopped which I perused briefly and plan to read more. Good stuff!

The Lost Gardens of Emily Dickinson in The New York Times about the ongoing excavation of her gardens is a cool read if you’re into poetry and gardening.

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Photo via Salon

 

On the music front, Salon has a good interview with Daryl Hall where, as usual, he speaks his mind about music and the internet, record company execs, and the cool things he’s up to. (H/T Adrastos) I’m a bigger fan of DH now than I was back in the day and highly recommend his show Live from Daryl’s House. If you haven’t seen it you are sincerely missing out.

The Womanly Art of Drag Racing by Anna Lea Jancewicz in Frigg magazine is a riot of a good read that I found highly creative and it just makes me green with jealousy that my imagination is nowhere near as elevated as hers. Still, I’m glad I can read her work and I do, often.

And as for poetry, I especially liked 2 Poems by Matt Dennison I read recently in Defenestration Magazine. Both are funny commentary on everyday household things that we see/do every day. That’s all I’m gonna say except “Never buy a single onion if you live alone”.

Neopol NovelsFinally, my writerly online friend Marina Sofia has a thoughtful post up reviewing The Neopolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, Feverish after Ferrante. I’ve read the first two books and am currently reading the third. These books have garnered so much attention with each publication that it seems a lot of people are skeptical they can be that good. Trust me. They’re that good.(Here is a rare interview with Ferrante about the books.) But what I like about Marina’s review is that it comes from the perspective of her Roman side. Marina’s blog is so good – she reviews books often and is actually responsible for inspiring me to read writers from other countries and participate in Women in Translation month. Not to mention she writes beautiful poetry.

So, I hope you’ll take a minute and click over to some of these sites. I promise you’ll enjoy.

 

 

Movement

Lulled in blood and tissue
the child sleeps in nutrients,
grows in layers prophesied
in mitochondria, in nuclei,
in cells growing and dividing
into a life evolving from strata 
younger than the extinction 
of unknowable worlds. Bone
and gristle, minerals and collagen,
glistening pink skin, all fed by
the cord of life.

la madre protegge

Her voice is his first sound,
her eyes his first love.
Her walk is his, her hands
deftly guide.
Approval, acceptance is the air
the child breathes.

la madre insegna

The sky is high, the world
is wide with many unreachables
yearning to be reached, with people
dancing undanceable steps, but
all, he is learning, are doable arts
and his time has come,
protected and taught, his life’s alloy.

i rilasci madre

*****

Prompt courtesy of R. A. Villanueva on Found Poetry Review. It was quite a complex prompt including specific requirements (suggestions) including incorporating a different language, using a phrase from this text, and watching a video he posted as inspiration, among other things. All of the specifics of the prompt can be found here.

I was really challenged by this prompt. The video was especially inspiring and is the key to my poem. The text I have in bold is a partial phrase I took from the required text and I chose Italian as my second language because, well, Italy is my dream home.

Anyway, big thanks to R.A. For this experience. The poem is a little rough around the edges but I’m pretty satisfied. Also, please excuse the wonky formatting as WordPress isn’t cooperating very well tonight and now it’s past midnight so I’m a bit late posting.  Hopefully, I can fix the formatting tomorrow.

‘Night, all.

*Update: Formatting fixed!

Thank You for a Funky Time

Pick a day when the sunlight dances
on little red Corvettes and snow
in April, when elevators reach
a higher floor and you can always
see the sun.

Choose a day that incites a parade
so purple the cells in your body tingle like
pop rocks and guitars exploding, feeling
proud in the light of this power.

Give the world all your extra time and kiss
this parade we call life where he taught us to
love and laugh and celebrate in purple rain
and stars that fall from the sky.

*****

 

Prompt courtesy of Found Poetry Review:

Take an erasure poem (FPR is full of them) and then add words to fill in the empty spaces in order to create a new text that flows naturally and coherently. Words should fit exactly — to the letter — so that the result appears to be perfectly justified prose. Don’t cheat by kerning.

I chose an erasure poem by Austin Kleon on Instagram (pic below) and incorporated lyrics from *Prince songs (including the title) as a tribute.

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*Lyrics from the following songs included:
Kiss
Little Red Corvette
The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
Darling Nikki
Sometimes it Snows in April
Purple Rain

Inspiration Monday: Tupac Shakur

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Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

― Tupac Shakur, The Rose That Grew from Concrete

Reading, Writing, and Publications

It’s Sunday, a day I often catch up with my online reading. I like to check in with writer’s blogs and lit zines, following their links which often take me to new and exciting places. Today I followed a link about The Daily Poet, a book of writing prompts, from a Pinterest pin that took me to Kelli Russell Agodon’s website. Turns out, she’s one half of the team who founded Two Sylvias Press with which I was already familiar. So I read about her book plus some of her other posts and enjoyed it. The book looks good and who couldn’t use a good book of poetry prompts? I may get it. Then I looked through the Two Sylvias Press site and found a call for submissions for their chapbook prize. It’s being judged by January Gill O’Neil whose website, Poet Mom, is so interesting. I’d never read her poetry until today but it really speaks to me so I tweeted about it:

“Tell” by January Gill O’Neil via American Poetry Rvw”We’ve only scrubbed the surface of my unhappiness.” #poetry

https://t.co/x9l02PGzXv

— Charlotte Hamrick (@charlotteAsh) February 28, 2016
(Click the link to go directly to the poem.)

So now, of course, I added January’s blog and American Poetry Review to my Feedly. So inspiring.

I also read several poems by several poets on The MockingHeart Review and they were all so good in so many ways and, yes, I’ve followed a couple of poet’s websites from here, too. This is the inaugural issue put out by Clare Martin, a sister Louisianan who’s work I’ve followed for a couple of years now. The journal is outstanding in it’s layout and the poets published within. Do go and read, you’ll be glad you did. Also, submissions open up again on March 1.

I’ve been remiss in reporting that I had a poem, “Starlight”,  published in the Winter Quarterly of  Blue Fifth Review. This is my second publication in BFR and I am very excited to be a part of this beautiful journal again. Big thanks to Sam Rasnake, Michelle Elvy, and Bill Yarrow.

So, it’s back to my book now. I’m reading Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi  (possible review to come)  but I should be raking leaves…….nah. bsb