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Friday, October 31, 2014


The Chattahoochee Review has a submissions call out on the theme of migration. For all my friends living abroad this is a natural fit; and for those who don't live abroad, I'm sure you've felt the winds of migration at some point in some way in your life. Check it out! Deadline of next September, so there's plenty of time to come up with some quality work.

The Night Migrations
by Louise Glück

This is the moment when you see again
the red berries of the mountain ash
and in the dark sky
the birds' night migrations.

It grieves me to think
the dead won't see them--
these things we depend on,
they disappear.

What will the soul do for solace then?
I tell myself maybe it won't need
these pleasures anymore;
maybe just not being is simply enough,
hard as that is to imagine.


from DEFINITIONS OF POETRY by Carl Sandburg

12. Poetry is a fossil rock-print of a fin and a wing, with an illegible oath between.
13. Poetry is an exhibit of one pendulum connecting with other and unseen pendulums inside and outside the one seen.
14. Poetry is a sky dark with a wild-duck migration


As darkness falls for real, it’s a beginner’s world again, the same evening as that day sixty million years ago when this migration began.   Richard Powers, The Echo Maker, p.3


from The Encyclopedia of the Stones:
a Pastoral                                                                 James Richardson

They do not believe in the transmigration of souls.
They say their bodies will move
as leaves through light.

Everything would be perfect if the atoms
were the right shape and did not fall down.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Got back last night from the Japan Writers Conference in Morioka, Iwate. Am scrambling to get home and family back in order and to get ready for work--too busy even to use subjects in my sentences!--so will get back to you on that later.

In the meantime, Kelly Jensen at the Book Riot blog has compiled 15 literary-themed jack-o-lanterns. Check them out!

nevermore pumpkin
by Tom Hundley on Flicker

Thursday, October 23, 2014


A Glittering                                            Sarah Manguso

One mourner says if I can just get through this year as if salvation comes in January.

Slow dance of suicides into the earth:
I see no proof there is anything else. I keep my obituary current, but believe that good times are right around the corner

Una grande scultura posse rotolare giù per una collina senza rompersi, Michelangelo is believed to have said (though he never did): To determine the essential parts of a sculpture, roll it down a hill. The inessential parts will break off.

That hill, graveyard of the inessential, is discovered by the hopeless and mistaken for the world just before they mistake themselves for David's white arms.

They are wrong. But to assume oneself essential is also wrong: a conundrum.

To be neither essential nor inessential—not to exist except as the object of someone's belief, like those good times lying right around the corner—is the only possibility.

Nothing, nobody matters.

And yet the world is full of love . . . 


". . .even when the universe made it quite clear to me that I was mistaken in my certainties, in my definitions, I did not break. The shattering of my sureties did not shatter me." ~ Lucille Clifton 


Two Sisters Swim in a Small Locked Box
By Malinda Markham

Sleepers dream of bandaged mouths and bright petals,
a static of bones and inelegant snow.

The night sparrow finally inhaled its own sound. What else
Could have happened? The vessel

was cardboard and twine. They should have strengthened
the moorings, should have cast

their own limbs of matter more promising
than flesh. One sleeper

mistakes a splinter for morning. The other curls
around a small jar of fear.

When the bough revoked its breaking,
the descent became nothing at all.

Two girls stood back to back, entwined.
The initial failure was a rocket-sound of wind. 
An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.  Niels Bohr 


Songs of a Girl
by Mary Carolyn Davies

God, planting Eden,
Dropped, by mistake, a seed
In Time's neighbor-plot,
That grew to be 
This hour?

You and I picked up Life and looked at it curiously;
We did not know whether to keep it for a plaything or not.
It was beautiful to see, like a red firecracker,
And we knew, too, that it was lighted. 
We dropped it while the fuse was still burning ...

I am going to die too, flower, in a little while--
Do not be so proud.

The sun is dying
On an island
In the bay.

Close your eyes, poppies--
I would not have you see death.
You are so young! 

The sun falls
Like a drop of blood
From some hero.

Who love pain,
Delight in this.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Insomniac Shovels Coal

Alison Taverna of Coal Hill Review (an imprint of Autumn House Press) really GETS my work. In a wonderful review of The Insomniac's Weather Report she has truly entered my world. This is a review that makes me feel heard, as when Taverna says, "Our world, our bodies, these poems, are fugues.? Thanks so much to Alison and to Christine Stroud.

Read the whole review here. YAY!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Local Poet

This week I was one of three judges at an international school's poetry recitation contest. I was introduced as a "local poet." I'm not sure how I feel about that appellation.

I grew up next door to the local poet in my locality. He also taught at the high school. He was a bonafide hippie long after people weren't anymore. He had long shaggy hair and a beard, and a succession of three wives, the first who was my first piano teacher until she left him and married a local politician and then became a local politician herself. He played the guitar. One time he played the Allman Brothers' "Jessica" for me. I was about seven and mortified. His wife at the time told him I was mortified and he laughed.

One time I was collecting cicada husks off a tree that bordered the properties of both our families (he lived with his mother, grandmother, and whichever wife was around at the time; I lived with my parents, siblings, and pets). He came out and asked what I was doing. "Cool, man," he said, "Carry on."

In high school I had him as a teacher. He was a good teacher. He let us write poems in class--no, he insisted we write poems in class. He let students paint the walls and write all over them.

One time I wrote a poem about a lake of blood with dead swans floating in it (I was a teenager, after all). He called me aside and said, "So, Jessica, what's this all about?" And I told him that I was thinking that maybe after you die, all the things you tried to avoid in life were the things you couldn't avoid anymore. Like the swans avoiding the shore were now drifting towards it, as they were dead.  "Cool, man," he said. "Carry on."

He had a radio show and a small yellow chapbook. His mother gave me a copy for Christmas. It was signed. I still have it.

He died a few years ago. He was too young to die. He was the local poet.

And now, apparently, I am the local poet.

The first graders won for the lower grades, and the fifth graders for the upper grades, in case I left you hanging about the contest. Local poets do that; they keep you hanging.

RIP Thom Williams.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Monument                                                    Natasha Trethewey
Today the ants are busy
          beside my front steps, weaving
in and out of the hill they're building.
          I watch them emerge and—

like everything I've forgotten—disappear
          into the subterranean, a world
made by displacement. In the cemetery
          last June, I circled, lost—

weeds and grass grow up all around—
          the landscape blurred and waving.
At my mother's grave, ants streamed in
          and out like arteries, a tiny hill rising

above her untended plot. Bit by bit,
          red dirt piled up, spread
like a rash on the grass; I watched a long time
          the ants' determined work,

how they brought up soil
          of which she will be part,
and placed it before me. Believe me when I say
          I've tried not to begrudge them

their industry, this reminder of what
          I haven't done. Even now,
the mound is a blister on my heart,
          a red and humming swarm. 

Landscape                                                            Chad Sweeney

I subtract one color at a time
to arrive at green.

Green cardinal.
Green snow.

This green is excavated rather than built.
Looking you begin to feel

what culture feels when exposed

to time---
a pit

in the air, a climbing up to
no altar.

The clover,
the teeth of the horses,


Green burns in the green cloud.

Lightfall             Pamela Alexander

All the light was north, snow on skylights,
the year I lived in the painter's studio.

Scrub forest behind the dunes, a litter
of deer tracks and shotgun shells.
I tied an orange bandanna around
the husky's neck.


I knew the dark place was wrong. I walked the letters
of my name, which I did not recognize spoken.
Low corridors. 

Me. Her. The I
I could not find.

All the trees had fallen the same way
in the storm. A landscape pointing.

Anyone could happen like that.


The husky ate a bee
out of the air, snapped herself shut
on compound eyes, wing-blur, button
of darkness and buzz.


A rabbit streaked from under my feet.
Its nest fit my loose fist.
A cup of winter grass, still warm.

Home is the first everywhere,
the place we go out from.


The bee flew lower. Pollen graining its legs
drizzled onto linoleum shine. The room

was a different color for each of us. My shadow
bright blue-green in bee sight.

How could it not recognize the window
colored open?


I longed to be among trees. They wavered
beyond glass, beyond wire. They could not
be changed into words. They could not be changed
into anything. Even a camera couldn't see
the thick air around them, how it carried
sounds whole like water does,
how it supported slow birds.


Bee against pane, translucency
of wings. Centuries flew
against the glass. Then we found
the larger place: earth, that blue ark
afloat in the wilderness of space.

We cannot count ourselves out.


How beautiful it was
before we knew. How sweet how

A faint music falls from the stars

no it does not.


Set Theory                                                 by James Mc Corkle

Number following number,
Neatly described, heart’s plunder
Or loss, following,
                                that old saw, again and again,
And the route taken always is the shortest
Between two points,
                                   between what must be
And that lapsing cloud, a continental
Dimming, and then stillness,
                                                 and always the afterward,
Trying to place it, a landscape, verdigris,
Cerulean, lightened azure,
                                             indigo the deepest point,
The sky beginning to open, if
We could see them, stars ascending
Serially, marking
                              time’s season,
Boolean sets, you then not-you,
                                                       and that
Graphed line between, thin veil,
Memory lifted, lifting
                                     over the garden’s trees
An equation of synapses,
                                           but now just that—

Before the beginning of darkness
Settling on
                   the leaves of hawthorns,
Carnelian fruit, neither
Loss nor gain, but that astonishment
You are here, between
This and what is
                             fired—cinnabar to cadmium—and gone.


Landscape is the culture that contains all human culture.  Barry Lopez


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Insomniac @ The Small Press Book Review

Thanks to Taylor Breslin & Mel Bosworth for this new review of The Insomniac's Weather Report at The Small Press Book Review.

This thoughtful review opens with "Jessica Goodfellow's The Insomniac's Weather Report envelopes you in its haze, twists you up in its entwined questions, and holds the answers maddeningly just out of your reach." Read more here!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Creative Crossover

I listen to a lot of podcasts about poetry, about writing poetry, about writing in general. But I also get a lot ideas from listening to podcasts concerning other creative people, their processes, their lives, etc. Here are a few I recommend:

1) WTF with Marc Maron. This is an interview show focused on comedians. I find it extremely compelling, particularly the parts about people's career paths, their ways of being original and/or finding original material, how they perform under pressure, etc.

2) Meet the Composer with Nadia Sirota. Sponsored by WQXR New York, this show is an interview format featuring contemporary composers and showcasing their work. I love hearing about the problems they encounter in composition and how they go about solving them.

3) Radiolab hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. I've raved about this podcast before, and its still great. Stimulating science stories for everyone. New material to bounce around in your brain. I've had several poem ideas come from what I've heard on this show.

4) The Arcade the podcast of Hazlitt Magazine, hosted by Anshuman Iddamsetty. This show from Canada's Hazlitt Magazine weekly interviews someone from popular culture. Often it's someone literary, which is useful, but which doesn't necessarily fit the category of this list. It's the other interviews, particularly the cartoonists, that have surprised me with comments that I've found helpful in considering creative problems of my own.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Sky One                                                              Nance Van Winckel
In an early sky, the molecules of my wings
were reshaping themselves—by sheer will, it seemed—
into arms. And I was sad, at first, to be dispossessed
of the old updraft, the wheel-and-hold.
                                          But alright, goodbye.
I'd begun to see that the arms were spiraling, moving
ever more wildly, and Oh, I thought,
            they're full of stars. Then I saw—no,
                        the arms were made of stars. 


from 'Turbulence: Three Exercises'                              Todd Boss

1.      A Squall

will rail
at a westerly
wall awhile,
will reel, will
roll like a
wheel, mile
over mile up
hill, down
dale, will
loose all hell
and finally
drown just
east of town,
like an old hired
hand grown

tired of it all.


Happy Ideas by Mary Szybist  
I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn. Duchamp
I had the happy idea to suspend some blue globes in the air
and watch them pop.
I had the happy idea to put my little copper horse on the shelf so we could stare at each other all evening.
I had the happy idea to create a void in myself.
Then to call it natural.
Then to call it supernatural.
I had the happy idea to wrap a blue scarf around my head and spin.
I had the happy idea that somewhere a child was being born who was nothing like Helen or Jesus except in the sense of changing everything.
I had the happy idea that someday I would find both pleasure and punishment, that I would know them and feel them,
and that, until I did, it would be almost as good to pretend.
I  had the happy idea to string blue lights from a tree and watch them glow.
I had the happy idea to call myself happy.
I had the happy idea that the dog digging a hole in the yard in the twilight had his nose deep in mold-life.
I had the happy idea that what I do not understand is more real than what I do
and then the happier idea to buckle myself into two blue velvet shoes.
I had the happy idea to polish the reflecting glass and say
hello to my own blue soul.  Hello, blue soul.  Hello.
It was my happiest idea.
Fog on Skyline Drive                                                                                  Alison Apothecker
Because what I say must be said
          silently, a hushed gathering
of lip readers practicing
          an imprecise articulation,
and also because all you can do
          as you grip the wheel this evening
and steer against the white line
          that leaves you dizzy in its trailing off,
lost mid-sentence, a verb
                   feeling for its object,
I will have you trust that this night
          will unfold in the same order it does
on any night, that you will,
more slowly, yes, but all the same—
Let me explain it this way:
All that is indecipherable is what I am.
Trees become their shadows and their shadows'
          shadows the faces
you've tried hard to remember not to
You will come to know faith as a white flag
          you wave to the road and night,
the deer and opossum waiting just beyond
          the dimmed lights.
                   Your body calls this grace.
Now, you see it clearly in your mind:
          a warm room, the sleeping dog.
I give you the chance, curve by curve
          to practice what is necessary
                   to say
                            and to hear it being said.