It’s Summer and the Staff is Changing

Joshua Colwell

As we dive deep into production for our summer issue, which will be out July 1, we also say goodbye to our assistant editor and social media manager Josh Colwell. We were lucky to have Josh work with us for the past year-and-a-half, grateful for his contributions and point of view as we continued shaping the identity of Gyroscope Review.

Josh was with Connie and me when we were on staff at the now-defunct Every Day Poets several years ago. We were delighted when he contacted us to see if there was room for him to work with us again here at Gyroscope Review and we are glad we said yes. Josh had the distinction of being the only male voice here as we sorted through new submissions and chose the pieces for each issue.

And now we are back to being an all-woman staff for the time being. We aren’t sure what the future holds (are any of us?), but we are clear that we will miss Josh and wish him all the best as he pursues new opportunities for his writing and editing talents.

Thanks for everything, Josh!

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Book Review – Arclight by John Biscello

Arclight, by poet John Biscello, is an intriguing book brimming with possibilities. The book is divided into six diverse sections that carry themes through each section and tie them together with spirituality and attention to the relationships between people and creator, people and others, people and self.

I enjoyed the mix of short little poems that captured the intricacies of love and relationships, as well as the longer poems that delve into what it means to be connected with the spiritual, and the complications of love. Arclight is always drawing comparisons, answering and composing questions. Some of my favorite lines were about the Self, and its bonds to the heart.

from Beacon

The hidden vocabulary

of my heart

is reduced to essentials,

from Tatters

For many years

I asked Grief to

wait outside my window,

a peripheral guest



from I See Myself

He was my father,

still is. The bond between us thick

as viscous chains,

the sort that perpetrate magma,

and rattle and clank

when carried by the blue shivery breath

of ghosts

One of my favorite poems in the book, Funky Monk, describes the Muse as monk, an eccentric character breaking the bonds of solemnity to revel in life, to ponder the vast mysteries of the universe, causing bright introspection in the poet.

from Funky Monk

peer through the peephole 

and see my monk 

dancing freely 

and wildly 

amidst the parchment 

that is now whirling 

confetti-like around the room

Throughout the book, there is a concentration of poems concerned with love, miracles, and religion that opens the reader’s eyes to how marvelous the world can be. The poems ask a lot of questions, sometimes answering them, sometimes leaving the mystery up to the reader to decide. In one section are lots of poems about women poets and other famous women, tributes to their importance and uniqueness, then poems about male writers that do the same. It’s an interesting look into people we hear about, but never imagined what their inner world could be like. The concluding section is a long dance between poet and personal mythology, a fitting end to an intriguing poetry book. Definitely worth a read.

from 6. Intraverse, Epitaph for a Beginning

I, a perpetual guest

bearing witness 

to my own seeds 

and desires, 

feel at home, 

happy prey to a luminous gust

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Looking for a Few Good Revision Tips?

Today’s blog post is brought to you by our Assistant Editor, Joshua Colwell.

You’ve just written a poem. It might be the best poem you’ve ever written. It has imagery, voice, theme, all the right line breaks. You might think you don’t need to revise, but here are some tips on what to do before you send it out. 

  1. Let it rest. You may be tempted to send it off to your favorite literary magazine or journal right away. Don’t. Let the poem rest. Wait a day or two before going back to it. You may later find it needs trimming, or the meter in the third stanza doesn’t flow as well as you thought. Giving your poem, and yourself, some time to rest can be the difference between acceptance and rejection. 
  2. Read other poems. Get a feel for how some of your favorite poets construct their lines. What do they sound like? What do they feel like? Do they do something with line breaks you hadn’t thought to do? Taking in others’ work flexes the creative muscles in your brain, and they’ll be that much stronger and sharper when you go back to your own. 
  3. Be active. I’ve personally found that nothing stimulates my creative side quite like going out in the driveway and playing basketball. For many writers it might be going for a walk, gardening, golfing, playing with the kids, taking photos of nature. Being active is a great way to get the endorphins flowing, get the blood pumping, and maybe get a few new ideas.
  4. Be merciless. Does this poem say everything you wanted it to say? Does it say it in the best way possible? Maybe the poem is too bloated, or it isn’t saying quite enough. You don’t necessarily need to take a hack saw to it (though sometimes we’d like to), but some lines just don’t work, despite how much we try to convince ourselves they do. These parts need to be taken out because they simply don’t work or don’t have a purpose. You can drop these lines or phrases in a Word doc and use them for an entirely new piece. The important part is to be honest with yourself about whether something is necessary. If it isn’t, cut it.
  5. Remember why you’re doing it. Few things are as frustrating as tinkering with a poem for days (or weeks) only to have it still be wrong. Sometimes you want to throw your computer out the window and never write again. Don’t. Take a moment and remember why you started this piece, even why you started writing poetry in the first place. It’s a labor of love, and too often we focus on the labor, and not the love. Change that.

Hopefully you can take one, or all, of these tips and apply them to your own work. Maybe you’ll find things that work for you we didn’t mention. Feel free to share them in the comments section below! 

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Blackbird: Poems by Laura Grace Weldon – A Review

Blackbird: Poems by Laura Grace Weldon (West Hartford, CT: Grayson Books, 2019) $15.95

The first time I read Laura Grace Weldon’s latest book of poems, Blackbird, I gulped it down all at once like a starved reader. I kept finding poems to fall in love with, lines that made me say, oh, wow, me too. I’ve felt exactly that, keep tissues around for that (Overflow). Oh, there is a name for that feeling (Call of the Void). Yes, yes, this is what mothers do (Overflow – again, Notice to Fibromuscular Dysplasia, Subdural Hematoma, How to Soothe, After Play). Oh, god, I love this world, too (Common Ground, November Morning at Dawn, Feral, Astral Chorus). I wish everyone loved this world and each other (Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc; Border Children in the News), wish privilege recognized its own pompous damage (Adjunct Accidentally Invited to the Club, Fine Furniture). We can do better starting now (the whole damn book). And I thought, yes, this is what poetry is supposed to do: make us feel like we’ve found nourishment we weren’t even aware we needed. Make us feel connected to this world that offers so much, if we would just pay attention. Make us feel grateful.

The second time I read Blackbird, I savored it. I sunk into the idea of connectedness that is presented in the very first poem, Earthbound:

The oneness between self and everything

is this planet’s secret, kept imperfectly.

This is the very glue of this book. Oneness with everything – our families, our neighbors, the prisoners and children and battered women, the cow who lays down to die after 17 years of offerings, the coyotes and birds and beech trees, the oracles that come to us through everyday objects, the bee that leaves her stinger in the bottom of our foot. These poems draw an ever-expanding circle of life that includes even the smallest organisms. There is no part of this life on earth that does not offer something for us, some insight or comfort or magic. How can we not be grateful? 

And how can we not feel compassion for this earth and its beings, especially the damaged, the scarred, the ones in search of sanctuary? How can we not rethink our time here when its meaning shifts after a new medical diagnosis or a death? To understand how much there is to be grateful for is to also understand grief, loss, cruelty, fate, and to wield the bravery that allows passage through those difficulties. We have power to claim, as Clarion Reminder tells us:

The powerful provoke the powerless

to push against one another.

Their power grows by keeping us

in all kinds of prisons.

Yet we are not powerless.

When we rise up and gather our strength, as in Notice to Fibromuscular Dysplasia, we draw on power well beyond our own, especially when we are protecting our children:

I am a tornado, earthquake, tsunami,

I will knock your house into splinters.

I will drown you in my tides.

I will drop you into a fissure so deep

you won’t hear yourself cry for mercy.

I am the will of every mother

in every eon’s arduous crawl from sea to land.

Fierce love is an unbreakable bond. It is also the tissue connecting tender moments that lay bare our humanity. We treasure our memories, even as we leave them behind as in Moving Day:

The new people don’t know 

we tucked blessings behind these walls.

On bare beams the kids crayoned

bubble-face stick figures

and I wrote poems

in thick black marker, dizzied

by vapors that make words permanent.

Power, love, grief, gratitude. We use all of it to become complete human beings, like compost, as in Compost Happens:

Nature teaches nothing is lost.

It’s transmuted.

All that hard-won wisdom and gratitude and love brings us to the final poem in the collection, Anything, Everything. The poem closes the circle opened in the first poem. It reminds us of our “planet’s highest possibilities” and encourages us to start there. I would also suggest, as in the poem Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc, that we summon our will, like witches, to bring about a better reality. We have nothing and everything to lose.

To purchase a copy of Blackbird, visit https://www.graysonbooks.com/blackbird.html. A portion of the royalties will be donated to the Medina Raptor Center of Spencer, Ohio, where injured birds are rescued, rehabilitated, and released.

Laura Grace Weldon’s work has appeared in Gyroscope Review issues 17-1 and 19-1.

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