Poet of the Day – Laura Grace Weldon

National Poetry Month April 10, 2020

Laura Grace Weldon

Common Ground
What's incomplete in me seeks refuge
in blackberry bramble and beech trees,
where creatures live without dogma
and water moves in patterns
more ancient than philosophy.
I stand still, child eavesdropping on her elders.
I don't speak the language
but my body translates best it can,
wakening skin and gut, summoning
the long kinship we share with everything.
from Blackbird (Grayson Books, 2019)

1. What inspired you to write this poem?

This simple piece is a glimpse of my search for spiritual meaning that started in childhood. Tucked between the words are my forays into faith practices as well as the sciences, always bringing me back to the oneness I feel when immersed in nature.

2. What do you like about this poem?

This is a plain-spoken work, something I strive for in my pieces.

3. What would you change about this poem?

I should have given more careful consideration to the line breaks.

4. Where, when, and how often do you write?

I work as an editor of nonfiction books, so my daily writing tends to be dry. I call poetry my “sideways procrastination.” I write poetry to let my mind escape, sometimes once week or so, sometimes every day.

5. What poetry books are you reading right now?

I’m always dipping in and out of gorgeous stacks of poetry. Right now those include Erin Slaughter’s I Will Tell This Story to the Sun Until You Remember That You Are the Sun, The Art of Losing edited by Kevin Young, David Romtvedt’s Some Church, and Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things.

Picture of Laura Grace Weldon

Poet of the Day – Alex Pickens

National Poetry Month April 9, 2020

Alex Pickens

Snorting stardust and cracking hyperspace
Tearing up time continuums with a drag race
Running rings around Saturn and blue Neptune
Speedsters shootings stars of hydrogen fusion boosters
Slingshotting out of groovitational fields until our smiles
Stretch tight across our skulls, and smoke leaks out
Of the amplifiers and nostrils with our doobies askew
Later we’ll get loose and hang from Orion’s belt
And make wishes and flick coins into black holes
Watch them stretch while we down another moonshine —
Wake up in Laughing Sam’s Astroid with some android
A few stars misplaced, nebulae-brained, with stretched face
Space is dark and empty, but we laugh when they tell us
Because where there are supernovas there is stardust.
published by Jersey Devil Press

1.     What inspired you to write this poem?

I have always been interested in speculative and satirical elements of literature and this one came to me one night, maybe around 3 AM, while I was thinking about what thrill-seeking would be like in the age of space exploration. It probably helped that I was listening to an obscure band called The Hillbilly Hellcats at the time, and their song “Hillbillies on Speed” was playing. I wrote this poem entirely from the heart while listening to that song on loop. It wasn’t until it was published that I realized I had written a sonnet.

2.     What do you like about this poem?

In addition to the heartfelt sentiment, the structure and timing of the words and ideas keeps this wild and playful poem from being too far out there. I think that’s important when you get experimental with content—a classical structure helps it from feeling too experimental.  If your ideas tend toward the outlandish, ground the reader in familiar format.

3.     What would you change about this poem?

Good question.  In retrospect, I think I would pay more attention to rhythm, try to smooth out a few lines that are unwieldy to read aloud (like line 4). I would have given credit to the musicians who inspired me, as well (hopefully I’m doing that now!).  And most of all, I would have expanded, maybe written more sonnets.  SF is all about world-building, about the adventures of the narrator, and I have always felt drawn to the world created in this poem.

4.     Where, when, and how often do you write?

My writing patterns are irregular, and I have been writing a lot of poetry lately while procrastinating on life. Mostly I write when I’m at home, late at night, in isolation, while listening to strange music, because there is a certain phantasmagoric feeling that comes over me when everyone else is in bed, the world is asleep, stars are twinkling, and it’s just me and the witches.  

5.     What poetry books are you reading right now?

There are several poetry contests that offer free subscriptions with contest entries, and I have been reading the copies they send (The Greensboro Review, Gulf Coast, etc.).  Rattle publications have been my primary reading material, however, and I think the Rattle editor, Timothy Green, is fighting the good fight to keep literature both balanced and innovative, so I try to stay up to date and be immersed in Rattle’s material (The Last Mastodon is a wonderful chapbook they recently published). Fingers crossed that I one day get published there!


Poet of the Day – Erin Wilson

National Poetry Month April 8, 2020

Erin Wilson

The Black Draft
            ~in memoriam Grammy; age 66

At Birch Lake
the black painted turtles
have hauled themselves again
from the primordial muck;
they use their foreclaws
to hoist their shelled selves up
onto trees
that fell to shore
fifteen years ago.

It's weird, my daughter says.
Yes, I agree, it's wyrd.

There are forty-eight trillion,
six hundred and ninety-five billion,
nine hundred and ninety-nine
thousand and sixty-two things
in my daughter's life.
And one of them has changed.

The potation has poured itself out.
It can not be put back into the bottle.

Cattail fluff floats by,
gossamer hooks
and bloated ovum.
This poem will be published in my debut collection, At Home with Disquiet, due out in Spring 2020 with Circling Rivers.    http://circlingrivers.com/

1.     What inspired you to write this poem?

When my children were teenagers their grandmother died. To this day it seems impossible that she is not out there somewhere crossing her legs and sitting on the floor, as she often did.

2.     What do you like about this poem?

The quietness of it. The last lines hurt me. It is remarkable that any of us takes hold for any duration.

3.     What would you change about this poem?

Only the fact that it was written at Carol’s passing at such a young age.

4.     Where, when, and how often do you write?

Every. Single. Day. Anywhere that I happen to be.

5.     What poetry books are you reading right now?

Brian Brett’s Poems, New and Selected, Don McKay’s Angular Uncomformity and Bin Ramke’s Theory of Mind: New and Selected Poems.


Poet of the Day – Joanne Esser

National Poetry Month April 7, 2020

Joanne Esser

They fall into exhaustion rather than into gentle sleep,
            each limb heavy with the ash of its bonfires burned completely down,
                        not curled but sprawled, claiming all the space of their bed,
Two bodies that attempted fusion. Both strained to push into
            what is impenetrable in the other, wanting in the only way they know
                        to try, to perhaps break through the inherent loneliness of skin.
Now, very late, leg over leg, arm across chest, they breathe deep as newborns, 
as if drawing from the stuffy air replenishment after their struggle. No dreams 
 tonight. Instead, only thick flesh, cooling back into their separate selves.
What will they say when they stir back into the world,
            conscious, suddenly, of their edges as morning sun floods their sheets?
                        What will their first words be upon waking?
They each will arrive in the new day alone, surprised, as they were at their own births, 
            and at death, and as after each sleep, utterly bound in the locked rooms
                        of their bodies. Will they recognize their loneliness? Will they speak of it?
If love resides anywhere, it is here: in the most fragile moment, the waking faces, 
their mussed hair. When habitual seeing returns. It is in their decision,
                        whether or not they will tell one another of their true need.

First published in The Sow's Ear Poetry Review
Also included in my recently published collection of poems, Humming At The Dinner Table
 (Finishing Line Press, 2019).

1.     What inspired you to write this poem?

This poem emerged from a deep relationship I had with a man over twenty years ago. As with many new relationships, I was at first caught up in the exhilaration of it, the thrill of getting to know someone in body and mind. But I also sensed the undertone of separateness that seems impossible to overcome – how each of us is, in the end, utterly alone. It brought me to a fresh understanding of what love really is – the willingness to be honest with someone about our human condition.

2.     What do you like about this poem?

I have struggled over time with finding a way to put physical lovemaking into words in a way that is not cliché. I think this poem’s focus on the moments afterward, the waking into a new day, is a successful way to suggest passion.

 3.     What would you change about this poem?

I wrote this poem long ago, and, unlike so many of my poems, it seems to have stood the “test of time” without too many revisions. I like the long lines and the three-line stanzas that slide sideways on the page. I wouldn’t change it at all; instead, I might write a new poem to explore how love evolves as people age – since that is what I am experiencing now.

4.     Where, when, and how often do you write?

I journal most days, getting up early in the morning and sitting with my coffee at my dining room table before work and before the daily to-do list takes over my brain. Much of my journaling is just top-of-the-mind thoughts, rattling on – just practice moving the pen across the page. But sometimes I discover a line or two from my journal that I can pull out to try to shape into a poem. 

5.     What poetry books are you reading right now?

I absolutely love the work of Ada Limon. Both of her books, Bright Dead Things and The Carrying, are full of music and depth of thought that inspire me to look anew at everything.

Picture of Joanne Esser
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