SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: HEATHER WHITED

A MAY EVENING, EVERYTHING IS OK
By Heather Whited


A pink and white bloom
Split open
splayed to look
like a pair
Of lungs breathing
on the sidewalk.
All cars
are diamonds
in glittering rows.
It is the sun
tonight;
It is the
lift
of my dog’s ears.


Today’s poem first appeared in the winter 2018 issue of The Broke Bohemian and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Heather Whited graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2006 with a BA in creative writing. She lived in Japan and Ireland before returning to her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee to get her graduate degree. She now lives in Portland, Oregon. She has been published in the literary magazines Straylight, Lingerpost, The Timberline Review, A Door is Ajar, Allegro, Foliate Oak, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Windmill; The Hofstra Journal of Art and Literature, Chantwood Literary Magazine, Cricket, Storm CellarForge, Gravel, and soon The Hungry Chimera and The Broke Bohemian. In 2015, she was an honorable mention in Gemini Magazine’s annual short story contest. She is a contributor to The Drunken Odyssey podcast and Secondhand Stories Podcast.

Guest Editor’s Note: Matthew Zapruder in Why Poetry writes, “A poem, literally, makes a space to move through. To read a poem is to move through that constructed space of ideas and thinking.” Whited has constructed such a space with short lines packed with sensory impressions of air, heat, color, and light. The speaker takes the lead from a position of sharpened perceptions of what someone else might pass by without noticing. Sound plays a significant role too, and the words progress in a softness: “Split… splayed… sidewalk… sun.” These and the ending s’s of the plural nouns make walking through this poem’s space a spontaneous and instinctive experience.

Reminiscent of H.D., imagery breathes through every line. Whited guides readers through familiar visuals, such as “A pink and white bloom” and “diamonds/ in glittering rows,” that in combination instruct a post-spring feeling following the discovery of a flower forgotten on a sidewalk. Simile and metaphor arrive smoothly in succession like a warm breeze at sunset. The speaker appears only at the end, and the final effect is far reaching.

Want to read more by and about Heather Whited?
Storm Cellar
The Timberline Review


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, the time has come for change. 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 share this series with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today.

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


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: D.H. LAWRENCE ON SPRING

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THE ENKINDLED SPRING
By D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.


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


David Herbert Richards Lawrence (1885 – 1930) was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works, among other things, represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation. Although best known for his novels, Lawrence wrote almost 800 poems, most of them relatively short. His first poems were written in 1904 and two of his poems, “Dreams Old” and “Dreams Nascent,” were among his earliest published works in The English Review. His early works clearly place him in the school of Georgian poets, a group not only named after the reigning monarch but also to the romantic poets of the previous Georgian period whose work they were trying to emulate. (Annotated biography of Yehuda Amichai courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Lyric gyrations, thick alliteration, words and images like blossoms and wildfire. D.H. Lawrence helps us welcome spring while questioning the I amidst such a season.

Want to read more by and about D.H. Lawrence?
The world of DH Lawrence
Biography.com
Academy of American Poets

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EARTH VOICES FOR SPRING

Public Domain image.

Public Domain image.



EARTH VOICES
By Bliss Carman

I

I heard the spring wind whisper
Above the brushwood fire,
“The world is made forever
Of transport and desire.

“I am the breath of being,
The primal urge of things;
I am the whirl of star dust,
I am the lift of wings.

“I am the splendid impulse
That comes before the thought,
The joy and exaltation
Wherein the life is caught.

“Across the sleeping furrows
I call the buried seed,
And blade and bud and blossom
Awaken at my need.

“Within the dying ashes
I blow the sacred spark,
And make the hearts of lovers
To leap against the dark.”

II

I heard the spring light whisper
Above the dancing stream,
“The world is made forever
In likeness of a dream.

“I am the law of planets,
I am the guide of man;
The evening and the morning
Are fashioned to my plan.

“I tint the dawn with crimson,
I tinge the sea with blue;
My track is in the desert,
My trail is in the dew.

“I paint the hills with color,
And in my magic dome
I light the star of evening
To steer the traveller home.

“Within the house of being,
I feed the lamp of truth
With tales of ancient wisdom
And prophecies of youth.”

III

I heard the spring rain murmur
Above the roadside flower,
“The world is made forever
In melody and power.

“I keep the rhythmic measure
That marks the steps of time,
And all my toil is fashioned
To symmetry and rhyme.

“I plow the untilled upland,
I ripe the seeding grass,
And fill the leafy forest
With music as I pass.

“I hew the raw, rough granite
To loveliness of line,
And when my work is finished,
Behold, it is divine!

“I am the master-builder
In whom the ages trust.
I lift the lost perfection
To blossom from the dust.”

IV

Then Earth to them made answer,
As with a slow refrain
Born of the blended voices
Of wind and sun and rain,

“This is the law of being
That links the threefold chain:
The life we give to beauty
Returns to us again.”


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


Bliss Carman FRSC (1861–1929) was a Canadian poet who lived most of his life in the United States, where he achieved international fame, and was acclaimed as Canada’s poet laureate during his later years. (Annotated bio courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Each year around this time I become so excited by the fact that winter is finally over that I must celebrate the birth of spring through poetry. The sun is shining, the crocuses and tulips are rising, the spring blossoms are in bloom. The cold and darkness that are just behind us are quickly forgotten by the promise of all that is warm and beautiful and worthy of rejoicing. So it has been since the days of Demeter and Persephone, and so it shall be until humankind destroys the natural balance of the world with climate change.

Today’s poem calls upon the “Earth Voices”—the spring wind, the spring light, the spring rain, and the Earth herself—to tell a story of the rebuilding of the world at springtime. The voices of spring speak of the newness they create: “Across the sleeping furrows / I call the buried seed, / And blade and bud and blossom / Awaken at my need.” “I am the master-builder / In whom the ages trust. / I lift the lost perfection / To blossom from the dust.” And the voice of Earth answers, calling upon the ancient power of three, reminding us, as spring does, that what is buried beneath winter “Returns to us again.”

Want to read more Spring Poetry?
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING! (2014)
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LIZZIE LAWSON ON SPRING
SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING! (2013)
The Poetry Foundation – Spring Poems

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: STACEY ZISOOK ROBINSON

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By Stacey Zisook Robinson:


THE BOOK OF ESTHER

That blush on my cheek?
It’s paint,
And I have glittered my eyes
And robed myself in the finery
of silk and gossamer,
lapis and gold–
And whored myself for your salvation.

You asked for no thoughts.
You merely offered my body
to the king–
My life forfeit
If my beauty failed.

You asked for no ideas
And I gave you none,
Though I had a thousand,
And ten thousand more.

Diplomacy was played on the field of my body,
The battle won in the curve of my hip
And the satin of my skin,
Fevered dreams of lust
And redemption.

That blush on my cheeks?
It is the stain of victory
And of my shame.


Today’s poem was originally published on Stumbling Towards Meaning and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Stacey Zisook Robinson is a single mom. She sings whenever she can. She writes, even when she can’t. She worked in Corporate America for a long time. Now she works at her writing and looks for God and grace, meaning, connection, and a perfect cup of coffee, not necessarily in that order. Stacey has been published in the Summer 2013 issue of Lilith Magazine and in several anthologies including The Hope (Menachem Creditor, ed) and In Transit (BorderTown Press, Daniel MacFadyen, ed). Watch for her book, Dancing in the Palm of God’s Hand, forthcoming from Hadasah Word Press. Stacey has recently launched a Poet in Residence program designed to work with both adults and kids in a Jewish setting to explore the connection between poetry and prayer as a way to build a bridge to a deepened Jewish identity and faith.

Editor’s Note: This week we celebrated Purim, a Jewish holiday that commemorates Queen Esther (5th c. B.C.E.) saving Persian Jews from genocide. Esther’s rise to power, however, was problematic. Her predecessor, Queen Vashti, was summoned to appear in her crown, ordered to display her beauty before the king and his nobles. The implication, according to many scholars, is that Queen Vashti was ordered to appear wearing only her crown. She refused, and it was suggested that she should be de-throned and replaced by a “worthier woman” so that “all wives [would] henceforth bow to the authority of their husbands, high and low alike” (Esther 1:19-20).

And there’s your daily dose of female oppression, Bible style.

"Vashti Refuses the King's Summons" by Edwin Long (1879). Public Domain image.

“Vashti Refuses the King’s Summons” by Edwin Long (1879). Public Domain image.















A search began for beautiful young virgins. Those who made the cut were subjected to twelve months of beauty treatments before the king would even deign to lay eyes on them. The hopefuls then appeared before the king, who did not see any of them ever again “unless he was particularly pleased by her” (Esther 2:12-14). King Xerxes liked Esther best of all the young virgins displayed before him, and crowned her queen in Vashti’s stead. Plot twist: the king did not know that Esther was Jewish, for she had deliberately kept that fact from him. In the end Esther was able to use her beauty to bend the king to her will, and when one of his henchmen sought to have all the Jews in the kingdom annihilated, Esther stood up for her people and they were spared.

While it is this end-result that is remembered and celebrated each year at Purim, it is Esther’s degrading rise to the throne—and what it cost her to to save her people—that is the subject of today’s poem.

To come to power, Esther had to take the rightful queen’s place and become the poster child for the idea that “all wives [should] bow to the authority of their husbands.” To catch the king’s eye she had to strip away her personhood until nothing was left but her physical beauty. “That blush on my cheek? / It’s paint, / And I have glittered my eyes / And robed myself in the finery / of silk and gossamer, / lapis and gold.” It was not her devotion to her people that allowed her to save them, but that she “whored [her]self for [their] salvation.” Nor did her people care who she was beneath her beauty, or whether she survived her attempt to save them: “You asked for no thoughts. / You merely offered my body / to the king– / My life forfeit / If my beauty failed.”

"Queen Esther" by Edwin Long (1878). Public Domain image.

“Queen Esther” by Edwin Long (1878). Public Domain image.

















Queen Esther was a pawn in men’s games, as women of history have too often been. “Diplomacy was played on the field of my body, / The battle won in the curve of my hip.” She used her beauty and her sexual allure because, as a woman of her time and place, they were the only instruments of power available to her. But if she were given a voice, she might speak of inner conflict. She might tell us what it feels like to lack the ability to either refuse or consent. Queen Esther was a hero, but what did it cost her to package and sell herself in the name of the greater good? “That blush on my cheeks? / It is the stain of victory / And of my shame.”

Today’s poem does what all great feminist biblical interpretation and midrashot do: it examines, deconstructs, and reconstructs androcentric assumptions, biases, and perspectives in biblical literature, placing women, gender, and sexuality at the center of reinterpretation.

In a time when the Bible is still being used to justify the oppression of women, we need much more of the important work Stacey Zisook Robinson is doing with “The Book of Esther.”

Want more from Stacey Zisook Robinson?
Stacey Zisook Robinson’s Blog
Stacey Zisook Robinson’s Official Website
Personal Essays and Opinion Pieces on iPinion
ReformJudaism.org

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MARCI CALABRETTA

MarciCalabretta


By Marci Calabretta:


CATERPILLAR SEASON

Wild strawberries were blooming
as we ambled toward the cottonwood shade.

You were examining the prophecy of snowfall
in the measurements of woolly caterpillars

and I asked your opinion on the nature of happiness,
perhaps because you called me sister

or because I called you brother and stranger.
Tiger-banded dragonflies skimmed the grass.

Fern and myrtle, downy brown and black.
You laid the larvae on my palms without speaking.

I never knew you had such silences.
Overhead, wires heavy with starlings or crows―

I couldn’t tell against the steel sky. But I remember
later that night, the steam from our tea

curling above us and into our mouths, as though
the answer could last us a whole season of snow.


BROTHER RETURNS AS CHRYSANTHEMUM

Didn’t we think we were more than this―
little suns unfurling above the earth?

We thought we were constellations
in soil, entire galaxies anchored to dust.

Ravenous, we believed our thousand
arms could hoard the horizon―

eclipsing ourselves even as we waned,
bereft of all but shadow.


Today’s poems were originally published in Thrush Poetry Journal, and appear here with permission from the poet.


Marci Calabretta is the recipient of poetry fellowships from Kundiman and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Her work has appeared most recently in Thrush, Lunch Ticket, American Letters & Commentary, and Chautauqua. Her chapbook, Last Train to the Midnight Market, was published by Finishing Line Press. She is co-founder and managing editor for Print-Oriented Bastards, an assistant editor for Jai-Alai Magazine, and a contributing editor for Florida Book Review.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poems are wildly vivid and pleasantly unexpected. In “Caterpillar Season,” the poet couples the lush of wild strawberries with the oracular act of “examining the prophecy of snowfall.” The poem is like a parable in which the nature of happiness might be gleaned from the wonders of a nature so vibrant it feels at times as if it might fly or blossom from the page. “Brother Returns as Chrysanthemum” is anchored in the metaphysical, grappling with human existence and our role in the universe. The culmination of the poem, “eclipsing ourselves even as we waned, / bereft of all but shadow,” is a gorgeous finale that grounds us in the observable while inviting us to contemplation. Both poems indulge in delicious alliteration, fervently celebrating language and the poetic act.

Want more from Marci Calabretta?
Marci Calabretta’s official website
Lunch Ticket
Purchase Last Train to the Midnight Market from Finishing Line Press
Co-founder and managing editor for Print-Oriented Bastards

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ROSE NIELSEN

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WATER-WITCH
By Rose Nielsen

As April mist blew chill against the rocky beach,
the wishing pines, the trembling birch and cedars
leaned out as if to catch a glimpse of Mary Lake’s
ice petticoat swept to shore on last night’s tempest.

Divining rod in hand, stem pointing at the lake,
Y hugging at my hips, I felt no tug;
I thought the misty air, the soggy forest floor
must be too drenched to dowse a single source.

But when I looked again and saw the leaning birches
reach out their limbs, each one a pair of arms
held out to greet the lake, I turned the stem to point
toward me and felt the tug as it divined a hidden spring.


Today’s poem appears here today with permission from the poet.


Rose Nielsen is a writer, poet, musician, and a physical therapist in a small mountain town in British Columbia, Canada. She also teaches biology and English at the local community college. She recently received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Her work has appeared or will be appearing in RiverLit and CV2; and she is working on a novel and on a collection of poems about water and the bonds humans hold with it.

Editor’s Note: Rose Nielsen’s poetry reminds me of Alaska’s Poet Laureate, Peggy Shumaker, a favorite here on this series. These poets share a love of the interconnectivity of nature and the written word. Simple, yet rich, and working on the micro level, with sounds lulling and inspiring us, with images clear as if painted by brushstroke.

As tomorrow is Mother’s Day, I dedicate today’s selection to my Mama. The woman who taught me the wonders of water, witchcraft, nature, and poetry alike. For my mother, and for Mother Earth, the Great Mother of us all.

Want to read more by Rose Nielsen?
River Lit

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING!

photo 3Spring’s first flowers spotted this week in New York’s Jefferson Market Garden.


WITH A BUNCH OF SPRING FLOWERS
By Kate Seymour Maclean

In the spring-time, out of the dew,
      From my garden, sweet friend, I gather,
      A garland of verses, or rather
A poem of blossoms for you.

There are pansies, purple and white,
      That hold in their velvet splendour,
      Sweet thoughts as fragrant and tender,
And rarer than poets can write.

The Iris her pennon unfurls,
      My unspoken message to carry,
      A flower-poem writ by a fairy,
And Buttercups rounder than pearls.

And Snowdrops starry and sweet,
      Turn toward thee their pale pure faces
      And Crocus, and Cowslips, and Daisies
The song of the spring-time repeat.

So merry and full of cheer,
      With the warble of birds overflowing,
      The wind through the fresh grass blowing
And the blackbirds whistle so dear.

These songs without words are true,
      All sung in the April weather–
      Music and blossoms together–
I gather and weave them for you.


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


Kate Seymour Maclean (1829-1916): Born in Fulton, New York, seemingly as “Chloe Ann Seymour” and educated at the Falley Seminary, Kate Seymour moved to Canada a few years after her 1857 marriage to Allan MacLean of Ingersoll, Ontario. She was well known as a poet in her day, producing three volumes of verse and publishing frequently in Canadian and American magazines. Her first book, The Coming of the Princess, And Other Poems (1881), is prefaced by Graeme Mercer Adam, then editor of the Canadian Monthly. Loyal to her adopted country, MacLean became a strong advocate of the “Canada First” movement. She died in Toronto at the age of 86. (Biography courtesy of The Simon Fraser University Library.)

Editor’s Note: If you are an avid reader of this series, you have faithfully read along as I lamented this year’s winter and dared Mother Nature to bring on the spring. This week, spring has finally arrived. The cherry blossoms are bursting in all their glory in Washington D.C., and here in New York City there is warm weather and sunshine, the first cherry blossoms have been spotted on the trees, and spring flowers can finally be seen lining the streets and blooming in the parks.

If you read this series, you know how we on the East Coast have suffered this long winter, and you know how anxiously your faithful Editor has awaited spring. Today I am happy to report that SPRING IS HERE, and in its honor I offer you “A flower-poem writ by a fairy,” “sung in the April weather,” “Music and blossoms together.” To celebrate spring’s arrival, here is a poem in the form of a bouquet, “gather[ed] and weave[d] … for you.”

Want to see more by Kate Seymour Maclean?
All Poetry
Public Domain Poetry