Reviewing Ada Limón’s Latest Poetry Collection

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!

NaPoWriMo, Day 3

Today’s prompt from the NaPoWriMo site was to write a “sonnet-esque”poem with iambic pentameter, and about something sad.  In the news recently is the sad story of Timmothy Pitzen, who went missing in 2011 after his mother checked him out of school, apparently placed him with unknown people to raise, and then committed suicide.  His father and other family members haven’t seen him since that day, when he was 6 1/2 years old.  In the past couple of days, a young man came forward claiming to be Timmothy Pitzen, but today it was announced that DNA results didn’t match.  While the young man may certainly be a product of abduction and abuse, he doesn’t belong to the Pitzen family.  I couldn’t imagine the family’s heartbreak, given even the slightest hope that their son was finally found, only to find out it was a (even well-intentioned) hoax.  So I wrote this poem for them:


For the family of Timmothy Pitzen, missing since May 11, 2011


The face, aged up, not his; the tweak of smile

the wrong angle.  We knew this deep inside

the phone’s jangle-tone, the way it sounded

like a nightingale, deceptive in its

joy.  We hadn’t seen him in many years,

that little bird, off to school with his bag

and jacket; we wanted to hear his voice

over the wire.  Instead we got a face

not quite right, outlined with nervous bruises,

asking for family he can’t recall.

Our arms, too weak from carrying with us

old pictures age-progressed for clarity—

they can’t embrace him or tend to his wounds.

His song belongs to someone else.  Just who

that is, may he someday discover them.

For now, we line our lonely nest and wait.

NaPoWriMo, Day 2

I missed yesterday due to an unexpected flare of a recurring illness I deal with from time to time, and it didn’t seem like a great idea (on the other hand, maybe it would have been fantastic) to write while under the influence of narcotic pain medication.  So I plan to make up a day this week and write two (although not today, because of aforementioned narcotic pain medication).  I vaguely followed the prompt given out by NaPoWriMo.



What is a minute?  A piece of our attention

chopped with a dull knife, divided equally.

What is a day?  A circle, gold-toned

and imperceptible to feet.  Only our skins

know the warmth, only our eyes know

the sting of a cloudless noon sky.

What is a month?  Crescents

arcing across, beads on a string,

silver like an ocean.

What is a year?  Beyond our attention,

longer than breath.  A swallower of minutes.




NaPoWriMo, Day 1

Another year, another National Poetry Writing Month!  Once again, I’m endeavoring to write 30 poems in 30 days.  Last year I got to 25, which was pretty exciting considering how much I had going on in the month of April.  This year, this month is even more packed, but I’m hoping to do at least as well!

I am kind-of-sort-of following prompts for the month…this one started as a response to a prompt, but veered off:


So you want a seat at this table

with a mouth that has never known

salt, with a nose that does not smell

fear.  You want to lick a plate

not realizing you set it yourself

ages ago.  Hashtag, you say.

Not all.  Stand up

at the table’s edge

and see your company.  Stand

on your seat.  The feast may,

in fact, be too bitter for your tongue.

Catching Up!

There’s a great deal to catch up on!  The end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 has so far been very fruitful!

I was honored to be selected for a Pushcart Prize nomination by Up North Lit for my poem “Bear the Weight,” about parenting my neuro-atypical son.  This was especially exciting for me, as that poem was my first attempt at a villanelle.  You can read it here.

I was also delighted to find out just recently that Split Rock Review nominated my poem, “Burning Day,” for the New American Review’s “New Poetry from the Midwest” 2019 anthology, and they’ve invited me to come read with them at the UntitledTown Festival in Green Bay Wisconsin in April!

Perhaps most exciting is being granted a two-week artist-in-residency in Mackinac Island by the Mackinac State History Parks in June!  This is the first season they have offered a residency program for artists, and I’m overjoyed to have been selected to be one of them.  I’ll be staying for two weeks in a beautifully appointed studio apartment on the upper level of the Mackinac Island visitors’ center, enjoying one of the most beautiful places in Michigan and devoting my time to writing and revising.  Part of the residency also includes two readings, so I’ll be sure to post those days/times once they’re available.

April is almost upon us, of course, and that means another attempt at a poem a day for the entire 30 days.  I’ll be posting daily as part of the challenge, so be on the lookout!

Summer Fun!

Thanks to April’s push to write a new poem every day, as well as the “100 Rejections in a Year” challenge put out online to the Binders Facebook group for female/nonbinary poets, things have been moving along this summer.  So far, five acceptances (publications forthcoming; I’ll post links when I have them), 28 rejections, and many still pending!

I’ll also be reading in Toledo on August 31 at the Art & Soul art gallery with William Merricle–come and see me!  The event info is here.

NaPoWriMo, Day 22



unless one stands with one foot on either side of the line, facing true north (or whatever your faith tells you to be true in the absence of a compass) in which case you may feel one foot become distinctly warmer, and you will be faced with a decision to sing Johnny Cash or Footloose.  To hold still is not an option because you’re just realized the ground is separating beneath you like in an action film.  Your heel is teetering on the corner of the round earth.  Dance.

NaPoWriMo, Day 21

(NOT belated!)






Sailors are buried at sea

and it is said

their faces appear in the waves

for days

following the ship

that bore them

from their homes





A day of chilled spring rain

and the worms creep

like question marks

from their earthy homes

but they lose their way,

find themselves underfoot

or out to dry

what keeps them coming?

why is home not enough?






When he was born, I said

look at his chin

a perfect replica of his father’s

they were the only words I could find

after two days of waves crashing

over me, after a red rope seam

was stitched into my belly

that kept me pressed into my bed.





Evening night glints

on a glass frame

that face is gone

though the glass frame

cradles the photo

holds it tight to itself

as if closed eyes

could return what was lost





The faces in the waves

fade eventually

and the ship is free

to choose its own direction.

NaPoWriMo, Day 20 (belated)


Peshtigo, WI – October 8, 1871


When Chicago burned, so did we.

Our bodies froze in the river

where we hid our skin from flame

and held our breath until our lungs

broke open and our mouths chewed ash.

Updraft and fall,

wind solid as locomotive steel

twisted, wound, concentric

and tossing houses in the air

only to drop them to wreckage.

A fire whirl, they called it later–

a name as light as dancing,

as though a dervish had spun through

after a dry season and kindled

the fields, jumping rivers gleefully.

In truth, the heat was a drill

chewing into every surface it could find,

and we closed our eyes against it

as though our eyelids stood a chance.


Note: This summer, while traveling around northern Michigan, I learned about the Peshtigo fire–an event most people outside of the Green Bay area have never heard of, in part because it occurred on the same day as the much more widely publicized Great Chicago Fire.  Communities in Michigan (Manistee and Holland) also experienced fires that day.  However, in truth, the Peshtigo fire destroyed more square acreage, more property, and took more lives than any of those other fires that day, and it remains the deadliest wildfire in American history, with a death toll of at least 1,200 and possibly as many as 2,500.

NaPoWriMo, Day 19 (belated)

Today’s prompt was to write about the Narcissus myth, but since I already did that on my own, I decided to take a different approach and write about Echo, the nymph who loved him but couldn’t speak other than to repeat his words.




Can I see you?

I see you

Are you trying to say something?

say something

I am!

I am

Wait–who is that in the water?

in the water

You’re so beautiful.


I could just climb in

climb in

like wrapping myself in a wish


If only I could be

I could be

steeped in your eyes, so much more


beautiful than the words

than words

my humble mouth could say to you.

to you