SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: CL BLEDSOE

DREAMCATCHER
By CL Bledsoe

Her hair is a tangled field of sweet straw
knocked crooked in heavy winds, catching
any light that stumbles nearby. Maybe this
is why she radiates heat, when I’m trying
to nap, sick, on the couch and she perches high
on my side watching screaming cartoons. Dazzled
strangers stop us on sidewalks to remind us
in case we’ve forgotten: life isn’t always gray. It’s not.
Bees follow us to get at the pollen they can smell
trapped in the mess. I thump them away
when they get too close and scare her. If I had time,
I’d learn to collect their honey, walk her through
the sweetest fields, open a boutique to pay
for college. But I can barely remember to stop smiling
long enough to thank the policeman for the speeding
ticket most mornings. Brushes are an enemy to her,
the confining toil of hair ties lead to tears. Stickers lost
are found. Twigs. Fuzz. All of it down the drain with
the bath water. It won’t last.



Today’s poem previously appeared in Mockingheart Review and appears here today with permission from the poet.


CL Bledsoe‘s most recent books are the poetry collections Trashcans in Love and King of Loneliness and the novel The Funny Thing About… He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter and blogs (with Michael Gushue) at How To Even…

Guest Editor’s Note: There are not many poems full of unabashed joy and magic, but CL Bledsoe’s “Dreamcatcher” is one of them. The language continually surprises as it turns a little girl’s head of blonde hair into a dreamcatcher, full of wonderment and mystery. Bledsoe moves with alacrity and agility from the initial simile that describes his daughter’s hair “as a tangled field of sweet straw / knocked crooked in heavy winds, catching / any light that stumbles nearby.” Nothing in this poem feels forced, even though he never lets an opportunity go by without pushing the language and imagery as hard as he can, to capture the girl’s spirit as she “radiates heat” or “perches high” when “watching screaming cartoons” to reveal the joy he experiences simply by being open to the wonders of his daughter’s essence. This is a poem that truly shows us that “life isn’t always gray” and the wonder that occurs as “Bees follow us to get at the pollen they can smell / trapped in the mess.” Read it, smile, and bask in the sunlight that Bledsoe has captured.

Want to read more by and about CL Bledsoe?
Amazon Author Page
How To Even blog
Not Another TV Dad blog
Not Another TV Dad column





Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.



A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan Butler-Rotholz, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: IRIS JAMAHL DUNKLE

DAPHNE’S BROKEN SONNET
By Iris Jamahl Dunkle


Apples are imagining themselves
onto hillsides – pink petals stick out their
tongues from the dark mouths of branches 
and the forest canopy ripens overnight
until it pulses like a green heart. Spring
frankensteins us all—softens our cyborg
brains (Admit it:  you were thinking about what
mysteries your phone will sing out!
) While your
body turns like a tree toward the light. Reader,
somedays it’s just too much: powder blue sky,
light wind stirring the leaves as if they are
waving, no, beckoning me to root 
and join in. How could I not give in? Trying
to find the song that’s buried in the soil.



Today’s poem first appeared in SWWIM Every Day and is reprinted here today with permission from the poet.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle was the 2017-2018 Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, CA. Interrupted Geographies, published by Trio House Press, is her third collection of poetry. It was featured as the Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection for July 2017. Her debut poetry collection, Gold Passage, was selected by Ross Gay to win the 2012 Trio Award. Her second collection, There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air was published in 2015. Her work has been published in numerous publications including San Francisco Chronicle, Fence, Calyx, Catamaran, Poet’s Market 2013, Women’s Studies and Chicago Quarterly Review. Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College and is the Poetry Director of the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. 

Guest Editor’s Note: The octave from the beginning of this beautifully imperfect sonnet presents pastoral images that set a mood disrupted by the use of frankensteins as a verb, an abruptly delightful and unexpected choice by the poet, reminding us of what humans have done to the natural world to which we are aching to return and how it has affected us. And yet, “It’s just too much” for the speaker who in answer to a final question becomes a tree, as the mythical Daphne did to escape Apollo just before he caught up to her. Escaping into the natural world is an appealing idea when faced with how things have turned out or how things are headed for disaster.

This melding of sonnet forms—traditional, modern, old, and new—offers two voltas, significant turns in meaning, and the first happens at the beginning of the sestet with a simile that compares the body to a tree as it turns toward light. This is where the sonnet leaves its mark on the reader, who is then addressed directly with an anguish of images that lure the speaker to dig deep “to find the song that’s buried in the soil.” The second turn is the speaker’s response to the leaves and their beckoning. Once the speaker has taken root, this “broken sonnet” ends in a line of perfect iambic pentameter, repairing itself.

Want to read more by and about Iris Jamahl Dunkle?
Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s Official Website


Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus (Bibliotheca Alexandrina), Gluttony (Pure Slush Books), The Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, Random Sample Review, Into the Void Magazine, Allegro Poetry Magazine, and Rivet Journal.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LAURA READ


RIP, LAURA’S VAGINA
By Laura Read


Your vagina is beginning to devitalize,
the doctor explained, when I asked him why
I had had so many urinary tract infections lately.
The first thing I thought was that I should say
No, your vagina is devitalizing, because I have
two teenage sons, and that is what passes for wit
in our house. But then I got lost in the fact
that he didn’t, in fact, have a vagina,
and I thought I should point that out instead
because in some circles—say, mine—
that would be an insult. Then, in the little
room inside my mind where Dorothy Parker
was holding court at the Algonquin,
I thought maybe devitalize is just a medical term,
give the guy a break. But I didn’t even know
this man. Couldn’t he just give me a prescription
and say something vague about aging?
What about euphemism? I guess devitalize
was one because he went on to more vividly
explain that my tissues were, frankly, deteriorating.
At that point, I was thinking But you haven’t even
seen the area in question
and How did you get
this far without knowing how to talk to women?

Devitalize reminds me of de-ice which is what
I was doing just before this tricky moment
at the Urgent Care. My son was late to Algebra
because it’s really cold and it took a while
to clean the car. And at 8:00 the door
where he usually goes in automatically closes,
so I had to take him around to the front,
and he dropped his phone in the snow
and it got run over, so now there’s a crack
in the screen. He wants me to replace it,
but I said, No, it still works.



Today’s poem previously appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Volume 68, No. 1. Winter 2018, and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Laura Read’s first collection of poems, Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral, was published in 2012 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her second collection, Dresses from the Old Country, will be published by BOA in fall of 2018. She teaches English at Spokane Falls Community College.

Guest Editor’s Note: This poem moves through thought and returns to previous memory in a deceptively effortless progression, as if listening to someone recount an experience in conversation. The speaker fixates on a word that informs the tone of the experience and the poem: devitalize. This word takes her down a linguistic path that leads to another path and another, but, unlike Robert Frost, she returns to the fork in the road at the end of the poem with her response to her son that is meant for the insensitive doctor: “No, it still works.”

The allusive dark humor of Dorothy Parker is conjured as a familiar satirical connection and an anchor for association or a metaphorical leap. The “little room” inside the speaker’s mind is where pithy retorts are stored for occasions such as the encounter at the Urgent Care clinic, but she doesn’t respond in the way that she wants to, keeping her thoughts to herself, as many women do in these situations when they are being told that their bodies have failed them in some way by doctors who make assumptions without being completely sure.

The significant linguistic turn the speaker takes to a new word: “Devitalize reminds me of de-ice” leads her to recent memory, and the experience of taking her son to school that morning evokes mournful anger and defiance in the face of a doctor’s proclamation that a vital part of her female-ness is deteriorating. The details are important in her reliving the moments with her son as she is sitting in the clinic, and seemingly mundane facts become the thematic crux, informing the reader how life and language connect to produce intense emotion when we least expect it.

Want to read more by and about Laura Read?
Laura Read’s Official Website


Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), the Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, and Rivet Journal.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RACHEL HEIMOWITZ


REFRESH
By Rachel Heimowitz

We raise them in lemons, in buttercream, in cornmeal,
we cut the crust off every loaf and serve blueberries
to those who can’t abide the crumbs. We let them

ride our arms like cowboys, and when their imaginations
cry elephants, we give them elephants, thick skinned
and wrinkled, but theirs. We sail them off due west,

into the froth of their own desires, tell them their lives
will roll like the hills behind the hills behind the hills
into a mist the color of tamarind and smoke. Lovely

parenthood, open and bright, sunlight through a window,
a hand smoothing sheets, Lego basketed in a corner.
The refresh button under my index finger, set to the local news site

pressed over and over and over to discover
if my child has gone to war.

 

Today’s poem previously appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Prairie Schooner (Volume 91 Number 4) and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Rachel Heimowitz is the author of the chapbook, What the Light Reveals (Tebot Bach Press, 2014.) Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Spillway, Prairie Schooner and Georgia Review. She was recently a finalist for the COR Richard Peterson Prize, winner of the Passenger Prize and she has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Rachel received her MFA from Pacific University in Spring 2015 and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California.

Guest Editor’s Note: This is a poem of immense restraint, power, and impact. How we are lulled by its lyric, set softly adrift amid its imagery, then gutted by its simple, brutal truth. How effortless the poet makes it appear to live this unbearable life, to write this poem.

Today’s poem is dedicated to the children’s lives lost to gun violence. It is offered as a battle cry as we take to the streets today with the #NeverAgain movement to save our children, to march for their lives. So that the next time this poem is written it does not end: “The refresh button under my index finger, set to the local news site // pressed over and over and over to discover / if my child has died at school.”

Want to read more by and about Rachel Heimowitz?
Rachel Heimowitz Official Website
Buy What the Light Reveals from Amazon
Atticus Review
Twyckenham Notes
Tinderbox Poetry Journal
Cutthroat
The Missing Slate

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. It is an honor and a unique opportunity to now share this series with a number of guest editors, and we’ll be hearing more from them in the coming weeks. Today’s feature, however, is a labor of love from yours truly.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THEY WERE BEARS




From THEY WERE BEARS
By Sarah Marcus:


PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN BEARS

You said you were afraid of bears—

we weren’t safe until there was ice
along the shoreline. I said we all need trauma,

and my heart breaks every Autumn, so we broke
ourselves against those rocks until the cave mouth opened:

a womb for blind crayfish,
a passageway harboring beetles.

I want you to reach into the depths of your backwoods
and remember our Winters. We need the bears, ourselves

ursine sleeping in dens—the caverns drip-stoned and stunning.
I was and still am in search of a great bear

because people have always known bears—
we will always be shelter for each other.

When we first met, I told you that a long time ago,
grizzlies came down from the Rockies—

they were poisoned on the range, trapped,
hounded, shot out—we found cranial fragments.

We still listen to those legends of bounties paid
to mountain men, harboring that ancient fear of

the bears that made meat of us, boar and sow,
mauled and gnawed away. Our bones resting in caves,

because you were born to hunt, and I was
born of hunting: a witness of great fires.



LOVE POEM

First snow of the season—
your eyes say
there’s not much oxygen
                  in the mountain air
.

I have never wanted someone
                  as much as I want you.

I devalued the damage:
you won’t belong—stay gone longer—

                  let it melt.


I’ve been thinking about you
                  because we cannot be separate.
The gravitational pull defies
                  the thousands of miles between us.

Even in the deepest woods,
                  we kneel beside the rill,
the river’s riffle,
the spruce’s mantle of rime,

                  until the point of rock
                                  swells tightly around us.

There’s a chant building in the forest: I won’t be your secret.

Everyone knows how to leave,
but I don’t know how to be
in this city
without you.



MYTHOLOGY FOR DESERT LOVERS II

These things are real:
you are a desert moon rising a hundred mornings away.
My horses paw a cracked Earth.
The air threatening Winter.
The solitude of sand.
We can smell the danger

of you and her
in that house.
In every house.

When you are so strongly connected
to another person, what did you call it? Rare?
It’s like the sunset.
No one can hold that kind of beauty
for more than a moment.

Our small ribs are thick
enough to take on a prairie panic.
The fear of too much open space.
So many acres;
we can never catch up.

You say I’m always on your side
and this will always mean more
to a woman.

I try to explain that love is a violence,
even when it’s beautiful.
When you enter someone,
you must also leave them.

And there’s always that moment of relief
when I realize that I’ve always known—
I am a hundred deserts.

I will wait for you or some version of you
to become sky.



Today’s poems are from They Were Bears (Sundress Publications, 2017), copyright © 2017 by Sarah Marcus, and appear here today with permission from the poet.



They Were Bears gives us a world that is intimate, complicated, and lush in its raw, brutal meditation upon the complexities of Nature, both within and beyond our grasp as both human beings and animals. These poems by Sarah Marcus channel what the world demands of us, and our bodies as we are guided through a startling cartography of desire, trauma, and memory that is both refuge and wilderness. Marcus writes, ‘I want to say that there are places I have to go, and you have to follow me…through all this orange light, every version of the color red, we betray ourselves for miles.’ With stunning craft and intuition, Marcus places her lyric power against the beautiful, terrifying bones in us where words often feel broken and impossible. Her poems expand through their stark and luminous discoveries to reveal a natural and psychic world too complex to ignore. Marcus gives us sacred breath in which to claim that world when she writes, ‘We inscribe the rocks/with our names, wanting a sign,/want the sky to say:/This is mainland. Solid ground./The place you’ve been looking for.’” -Rachel Eliza Griffiths, author of Lighting the Shadow


Sarah Marcus is the author of They Were Bears (2017, Sundress Publications), Nothing Good Ever Happens After Midnight (2016, GTK Press), and the chapbooks BACKCOUNTRY (2013) and Every Bird, To You (2013). Her other work can be found at NPR’s Prosody, The Huffington Post, McSweeney’s, Cimarron Review, Spork, The Establishment, Cosmopolitan.com, and Marie Claire.com SA, among others. She is an editor at Gazing Grain Press and the Series Editor for As It Ought To Be’s High School Poetry Series: Gender, Identity, & Race. She holds an MFA in poetry from George Mason University and currently teaches and writes in Cleveland, OH.


Editor’s Note: In the Jewish calendar, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a surreal and reflective time of reckoning. During these days we are introspective, coming to terms with our true selves before turning outward and asking forgiveness from those who we have wronged. It is in these Days of Awe that I come back to a collection I have been meaning to review for quite some time. It is in this magical time of brutal honesty that I dive deeply into a carefully-wrought world that is far beyond my comfort zone, with eyes and heart wide open to its savage and beautiful truths.

They Were Bears is one of the most thoughtful–if not the most thought-provoking–poetry collections to be released in recent memory. Rife with hunger and blood and animal instinct, this work pulsates at the intersection of nature and violence, family, sex, and love. They Were Bears drags us mercilessly back to our animal nature, honoring vulnerability and calling out sexual violence. This book pulls no punches, spares us little. What is reflected in its waters is our truest selves, as beautiful and terrifying as they are wont to be.

The tender, ravenous, brutal honesty of the book’s thematic spectrum is brought to life by the true craftsmanship of the poet. This is an absolutely stunning collection on every level–its words and images thrash and breathe, fly and tether. The poems are lush in their soundscape, and on the page they mark their territory distinctly. And the moments. The breathtaking moments. How true their revelation, declarations, and admissions: “because you were born to hunt, and I was / born of hunting: a witness of great fires;” “I try to explain that love is a violence, / even when it’s beautiful. / When you enter someone, / you must also leave them.”

Mazal tov to Sarah Marcus on this incredible work, and may we all start anew together in these Days of Awe.


Want more from Sarah Marcus?
Sarah Marcus’ Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: NEW YEAR’S MORNING


NEW YEAR’S MORNING
By Helen Hunt Jackson

Only a night from old to new!
Only a night, and so much wrought!
The Old Year’s heart all weary grew,
But said: “The New Year rest has brought.”
The Old Year’s hopes its heart laid down,
As in a grave; but, trusting, said:
“The blossoms of the New Year’s crown
Bloom from the ashes of the dead.”
The Old Year’s heart was full of greed;
With selfishness it longed and ached,
And cried: “I have not half I need.
My thirst is bitter and unslaked.
But to the New Year’s generous hand
All gifts in plenty shall return;
True love it shall understand;
By all my failures it shall learn.
I have been reckless; it shall be
Quiet and calm and pure of life.
I was a slave; it shall go free,
And find sweet peace where I leave strife.”
Only a night from old to new!
Never a night such changes brought.
The Old Year had its work to do;
No New Year miracles are wrought.

Always a night from old to new!
Night and the healing balm of sleep!
Each morn is New Year’s morn come true,
Morn of a festival to keep.
All nights are sacred nights to make
Confession and resolve and prayer;
All days are sacred days to wake
New gladness in the sunny air.
Only a night from old to new;
Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old come true;
Each sunrise sees a new year born.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Helen Maria Hunt Jackson (1830 – 1885) was an American poet and writer who became an activist on behalf of improved treatment of Native Americans by the United States government. (Bio courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Wishing all who celebrate Rosh Hashanah this week a shanah tovah umetukah, a good and sweet new year. May today’s poem remind us that now is an opportunity for change, but that we must be the change we want to see in the world.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: STACY R. NIGLIAZZO


By Stacy R. Nigliazzo:






“Harvesting Her Heart after the Accident” first appeared in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts/Matter Press. All other pieces are previously unpublished. Today’s poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Stacy R. Nigliazzo‘s debut poetry collection Scissored Moon was published in 2013 by Press 53. It was named Book of the Year by the American Journal of Nursing. It was also short-listed as a finalist for the Julie Suk Poetry Prize (Jacar Press) and the Texas Institute of Letters First Book Award for Poetry/Bob Bush Award. She is co-editor of Red Sky, an anthology addressing the global epidemic of violence against women.

Editor’s Note: Stacy R. Nigliazzo imagines the unimaginable, writes those words which cannot be spoken. An emergency room nurse, it is when her personal losses make their way to the page that her experience becomes poetry, and that poetry becomes an act of healing for poet and reader alike. How visual her imagery, how visceral her grief. And yet her poems leave us not in darkness, but with the necessary reminder that even in our darkest hour there is a “ripple of light.”

Want to read more by and about Stacy R. Nigliazzo?
Stacy Nigliazzo’s Official Website