I’m thrilled to finally announce that my first full-length poetry manuscript, Anchor, will be published by Aldrich Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books! This book has been several years in the making, and I’m delighted that it’s found a home at a great press. At the moment, we’re looking at a release in spring 2022. I’ll share more about the publication process, as well as events where I’ll be promoting it, as the date approaches!
The one thing I’m hearing from so many of my poetry friends is how hard the last year (and a half) has been on our creative lives. The pandemic and politics have put our brains in something of a holding pattern; it’s hard to take on anything new. For myself, I was bombarded with a new routine of teaching remote, synchronous classes while also trying to manage my two sons’ distance learning. Needless to say, 2020 was probably one of the least productive years I’ve ever had in terms of poetry.
But 2021 is here, and unlike 2020, I have “my May.” May has always been an exceptionally productive month for me; my classes are over, my work obligations are minimal, and my children are at school all day, leaving me at my leisure for hours on end. Last May, we were all crammed in the house like sardines and I was learning the ropes of virtual school for my kids, all with the existential threat of COVID looming over our head. Not much poetry in there.
This year is different. My children are in school full-time again for their last trimester of school (we live in a small town and have managed to keep cases very low in the elementary schools, thankfully), so I’m sitting here at home, engrossed in my writing. And I’m happy to say that I have finally constructed not just a full-length manuscript, but a second chapbook as well–both are winging their way to publishers as I write this. I hope to have some good news on that front in the months to come!
This one was inspired by the NaPoWriMo prompt of the day, urging us all to example Jheronimus Bosch’s triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights.
THE RABBIT LOOKS AWAY
After Jheronimus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights
Adam is short a rib, but now has a plus-one
for garden parties. He reclines, surprisingly relaxed
after the ultimate outpatient procedure,
on the grass while the Creator takes Eve’s pulse—
must be sure everything is working as it should.
Eve the Rib is uncertain, eyes downcast.
It must be the uneven terrain
that forces her knees to the ground,
because surely these gentlemen
would never refuse to offer assistance
or comfort in this unfamiliar place. Surely
the Creator would take her hand,
a divine and dazzling warmth,
and help her find her footing. But Adam’s toes
tangle in the Creator’s robes like a playful child
and it is he who holds Adam’s gaze.
Even the rabbit, already granted his playboy bunny,
turns an indifferent tale to this farce
just beginning to be written.
I imagine a stout, aging French lady reclining on a chaise with velvet upholstery, still looking en vogue in pink silk and lace and eyes lined to look like Bette Davis. Just a touch of la grippe, she says, fluttering the back of her hand to her forehead. How appropriate the word—grippe—the insidious viral fingers wrapping themselves around us, clenching until we ache. Gasp. Wheeze. Drink willow bark tea and turn our faces to the sky, hoping to breathe in any piece of it. Maybe now we call it aspirin. Or maybe now we take azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine and rest our heads on a gurney because the hospital beds are all taken. Either way, we can hear la vie en rose in our heads and imagine ourselves in Paris.
I followed the NaPoWriMo prompt today (loosely) to generate a poem about dream imagery. I feel like I may have to do several takes of this, because 1) my dreams are usually REALLY strange, and 2) I have several recurring themes in my dreams and have had them for years. This encompasses a couple that I’ve had several times.
first I am aware
then I notice
the doors flung wide
so I sidle up
to the threshold
and call out
to my volleyball coach
from high school
no water breaks
and when I protest
my teeth fall out
into my hands
and I look at them
with scientific curiosity
I examine the feeling
that started this whole thing
and the sense
that the doorway
does not lead
anywhere I wish
I really did write this yesterday, but I wasn’t quite happy with it enough to put it up. I tweaked it today, so here is a second draft:
When I was young, my mother took night classes
at the local community college. In one building they had
a dead, dissected cat under glass, splayed flat on its back,
paws wide as if in surrender. Its now-brittle belly skin cut
and pulled back, rib cage cracked to teach humans
about its lungs, stomach, intestines, the dingy pinks
and browns dulled and yellowed by formaldehyde.
Its chin jutted upwards, hiding its eyes. I wanted to know
if it had ever been loved, if a warm hand
had ever passed over the white fur
or if it had ever been called to its dinner
by a name someone chose for it. But I hid
behind my mother’s legs, afraid to see
what was really inside, what was split wide open
AFTER THE VIRUS
Someone made a jar that said “after the virus” on it. She’s putting tiny scraps of paper in it; ball-point scrawls of beaches and airplanes, or trips to the grocery store. Mini-golf. Concert tickets. Things we can do when everything is done breaking apart. We’ll arts-and-crafts it back together. We’ll be the glue, the string, the popsicle sticks. And when this is done, she’ll reach into the jar and pull out the world in its new shape.
It’s April 1, marking the beginning of National Poetry Month. I always try to participate in National Poetry Writing Month and write a poem a day. You’d think this year it’d be easy, with COVID-19 restricting us to our homes. However, rather than a break, I find myself essentially doing at least two full-time jobs–my own actual job teaching (all moved online now), and then essentially homeschooling my children. And somehow keeping the house from falling down.
Yesterday, on the eve of NaPoWriMo, I thought to myself, is there poetry to be found here?
Maybe, maybe not. I’m willing to find out.
QUARANTINE, DAY 20
There are some things you can let go of.
This is what aloneness teaches us:
the value of your grasp,
what it chooses. What falls away.
Windows, and how sometimes
they become mirrors. Photos.
There are people outside here,
their hands on their windows
and their faces gentle,
I’m so excited to leave for my artist-in-residency on Mackinac Island on Monday, June 10! This is an incredible honor to be chosen by the Mackinac State Historic Parks for their inaugural residency program. I’m really looking forward to spending dedicated time on my manuscript, as well as working with the Mackinac Arts Council to provide both a poetry workshop and a public reading during my stay on the island.
The workshop, entitled “Island Time,” will focus on the history, geology, and natural themes of the island, and we’ll explore both formal and free verse poetry. All experience levels are welcome! It will take place on June 13 at 7:00 p.m. in the Visitor’s Center, conference room 256.
The public reading will feature selections that I will write during my residency (with a health dose of old favorites, too) and it will take place on June 21 at 7:00 p.m. in the same venue as the workshop.
Come and visit if you’re in the area!
I consider it a high point in my career thus far that I was able to begin reviewing books of poetry for The Rumpus. I have respected their work for years, and when the opportunity arose, I happily took it! It came out late this past March:
What a phenomenal book. This was the type of collection that both inspires and humbles the reader. Of course, after my review was written, it received all sorts of well-deserved accolades, including being a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. I highly encourage everyone to pick up a copy!