Thanks to editor Joyce Brinkman, my poem “4.6 Billion Years” will be headed to the Moon in 2024 in The Polaris Trilogy anthology as part of the Lunar Codex project! And yes, I’m both starry-eyed and over the Moon! Yes, THAT Moon….
DMQ Review Fall 2022 Craft Essay Issue
On the craft essay
Don’t tell me the moon is shining . . .
In a letter to his brother, Franz Kafka passed along some memorable writing advice, later paraphrased in an apocryphal quote, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of moonlight on broken glass.” Don’t tell me . . . show me. Maybe you recognize the almost tiresome workshop aphorism embedded, “Show, don’t tell,” albeit more evocatively phrased.
Apart from its instructive value, Kafka’s quote especially resonates with me these days when the cultural mood feels enduringly dark. How I often long for some light, whether that light be good news, fresh perspective, a new direction, or the very real relief of a light heart. Show me some light—please? Perhaps what Italo Calvino referred to as “Lightness” in his essential, Six Memos for the New Millennium, lightness as opposed to heaviness, the weight of the world, of our past, and importantly in our writing. He described it as “the search for lightness as a reaction to the weight of living.” Writers often examine that weight, and in doing so lighten if not lift it for us by giving us greater understanding and empathy.
And what could be more weightless, more transcendent than the light of the moon? Which brings me, first, to the luminous image topping this page, one of featured artist Gian Paolo Dulbecco’s many wonderfully mysterious paintings—full of lightness, if you will—found on his website and gracing the pages of this, our Fall 2022 Craft Essay issue.
No tired prescriptions here! Like the moon wandering across a broken landscape, you’ll also catch the glint of a veritable wealth of fresh ideas, exercises, and inspiration to put to work. Five remarkable teaching poets explore ways to renew your writing practice. Rebecca Foust shows how using form liberates the writer and even tricks you into having fun. W. Todd Kaneko steals some moves from pro wrestling to demonstrate how to build up your own writing chops. Chloe Martinez’ reflection on ars poetica offers a new lens on the practice and your poems, and Annie Kim, herself a recent journaling convert, shows how and why keeping a notebook frees the imagination and leads to unexpected new work.
AND, not to neglect Amorak Huey’s timely look at what makes a prose poem dazzle, if you’re writing prose poems, don’t miss it. We’ve just opened submissions for our next all-prose poem issue due out next spring, 2023. If you’re hoping to submit, please DO be sure to read not only our two previous prose poem issues Spring 2022 and Fall 2021 found in our Archives, but also Huey’s, “The Prose Poem and the Startling Image,” before you consider what to send our way. You’ll be glad you did.
We so appreciate each poet’s generosity as well as craft issue editor and contributor Annie Kim who brought them together. We’re excited to share their insights on the craft of writing with you. There is enough in this issue for your own writing—beginner or accomplished, poetry and prose—to keep you busy reading and writing through the coming days of autumn and the winter months ahead.
So dive right in, take notes, try a new lens, make some moves, have fun, and startle yourself! These poets and essays are in a word, brilliant. You can quote me on that.
. . . show me the glint of moonlight on broken glass.
from the Ether,
A Chat with Dion O’Reilly
Here’s the Buzz from The Hive, a lively interview featured on KSQD Radio with me and Dion O’Reilly. There we first talk about a poem that’s influenced me recently, “The City Limits” by A. R. Ammons from his Selected Poems, reprinted below from poets.org. In the interview, I refer to the poem as “The Radiance,” I believe in error. I guess that’s what stuck out to me. In any case, terrific poem, and, if you have time, I think a quite-nice interview between the two of us.
I hope you too find something uplifting in this poem.
The City Limits
A. R. Ammons – 1926-2001
When you consider the radiance, that it does not withhold itself but pours its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny not overhung or hidden; when you consider that birds' bones make no awful noise against the light but lie low in the light as in a high testimony; when you consider the radiance, that it will look into the guiltiest swervings of the weaving heart and bear itself upon them, not flinching into disguise or darkening; when you consider the abundance of such resource as illuminates the glow-blue bodies and gold-skeined wings of flies swarming the dumped guts of a natural slaughter or the coil of shit and in no way winces from its storms of generosity; when you consider that air or vacuum, snow or shale, squid or wolf, rose or lichen, each is accepted into as much light as it will take, then the heart moves roomier, the man stands and looks about, the leaf does not increase itself above the grass, and the dark work of the deepest cells is of a tune with May bushes and fear lit by the breadth of such calmly turns to praise.
Hi there! Please check out my Pages, About, Calendar, Books, etc., right up there in the header for more info, and thanks for checking in. Too many other projects bubbling at the moment including at DMQ Review, but I appreciate your interest and support.
And I hope all is well with you and yours.
In the meantime, here’s a poem of mine that is featured in the Syracuse Cultural Worker’s Women Artists 2021 Datebook. Check out their website for more cool products.
Winter Train to Dublin
And sometimes I want to draw the landscape
not write about it, but the train rolls forward
past a field of white geese nestled deep in green,
the sun at quarter sky all day like a cigarette hole
burned in gray flannel. Someone once said
write stories that make a difference. Sheep
graze in a churchyard, then a Union Jack
flying over a roof. What needs saying?
A young man leaves the train. An older man
takes his place. This is the story of living.
Station to station we ride as far as the ticket
takes us. The view changes. So too
our fellow passengers. Some will talk,
others nod into their collars. The older man
unwraps a ham sandwich taken from his pocket,
reads his newspaper, folds up the trash.
We turn inland. A train Belfast bound
cries to the wind. The man gathers himself, stands.
Slips on his coat. Maybe this is the story: we keep
him alive here—his unfinished crossword puzzle,
tan eyeglass case, red rucksack, even the bandaid
wrapped around the tip of one finger—traveling
alone on the first day of a new year, at the door
for his station, wire-rimmed glasses agleam.
Week Three: Tighten Up!
It’s not time to loosen up on those distancing restrictions for the foreseeable.
You can do it, now! Now do it right! Watch out baby. Don’t you get toooo tight!
Here’s a much better sound recording, and, well, some different steps. Try both!
Everybody. Tighten up. Stay home. Sock it to ’em.
Day Twelve: WeekendPhoto by Curtis MacNewton on Unsplash
“I can’t wait for the weekend.”
That’s become the running joke at our house as we pad around in our socks looking for the next thing to do, or the next thing that we feel like doing since there are always tasks waiting around the house and yard or in the inbox. Tasks which once found their way onto schedules as we had time vs becoming the main event.
And now it IS the weekend. Technically, the week ends on Saturday and begins on Sunday on traditional calendars, so the word weekend for both days is clearly a misnomer. I don’t know what else we’d call it, some term that indicates the yin and yang of time, where one thing melts into its opposition in the dark hour of the clock. Arbitrary. A no-time time in a no-place place.
Which reminds me of an article I read recently from Scientific American about the “place” on the “north pole”–more of these no-place places–where the Earth’s time zones converge, as the author notes:
At the North Pole, 24 time zones collide at a single point, rendering them meaningless. It’s simultaneously all of Earth’s time zones and none of them. There are no boundaries of any kind in this abyss, in part because there is no land and no people. The sun rises and sets just once per year, so “time of day” is irrelevant as well. –Katie Weeman
All and none. That’s the sort of suspended place that the weekend has become when huge segments of the population work from home, some keeping business hours, others adapting workload across 24 hours of sweatpants; others out of work with no imposed schedules, no income. Most of us stuck inside the house. The Weekend currently seems like a quaint construct, a memory from times past. Nearly meaningless. I mean, what’s so relaxing about never getting out of your pj’s before noon if you’ve barely removed them for the past 7 days? Irrelevant indeed.
Today I got up, ate breakfast over the carefully handled newspaper (can’t quite give it up!), went upstairs and took my position at my computer where too many articles to read line up above the tool bar, took a break for a What’s App chat with my 3-year old grandson via his patient dad, then returned to email where a group of us celebrated the news of someone’s negative covid 19 test results. Later I did a half hour on my ancient Nordic Trak, ate some leftovers, and finally got into the shower after 1pm. Got dressed–yes, sweats–changed the bed, and here I am at my laptop once more, typing, simultaneously texting with a friend. We’re wondering whether a donut shop would be considered an essential service? I hope so….
That’s the good news: no news. That’s the weekend: no end, just reinventing what needs to be done–what can be done within this house or out in the rain–while this week awaits its mysterious end at midnight tonight, when somehow at that very instant, another week begins again.
Day Eleven: Looking
When things are looking down, look up.
It’s true. The physical act of moving the gaze upward lifts the spirit. While brain research and psychological studies offer support for this claim, just take a minute to prove or dispel it yourself with some research of your own. Chin up, forehead back, and I’m staring at a blank white ceiling, but I also feel myself take an involuntary deep breath. Something shifts slightly. You too? Just a slight loosening of tension follows.
On the other hand, it’s easy to see how the increasing habit of looking down into the attention-demanding phone screen might serve to just as easily compound physical stress and a lower mood through a constricted focus, especially on news that grows more and more disturbing with each click. Break the spell. Get even a minute of relief. Look up!
Now try something else. Look up, head as far back as is comfortable, and grin idiotically at the same time. Chances are you might chuckle at this manic move. The benefits of even a forced smile are even more well-documented and just as easily proven with your own quick grin. Google “psychological benefits of smiling” to find a plethora of articles to verify, but studies indicate that the smile lifts moods, reduces stress, boosts the immune system, increases lifespan, lowers the blood pressure, and remarkably releases more endorphins than eating several bars of chocolate! So, by some stretch of this logic, you might also find yourself reaching less-often for those extra calories. Smile! No one’s around to see you grinning like a fool, and if they are, smiles and their benefits are also contagious. Be generous.
The restorative effect of looking at nature, a no-brainer for most of us, has also been studied and recognized as a way to stimulate a more-productive workforce, even while remaining inside, ironically. But that’s not bad news for anyone who has little nature to view from window or porch. Apparently looking at photos of nature produces similar relief, and magnificent examples are under your fingertips, not only on instagram, but in online “image” searches. However, we all own the sky, whether looking out a window or standing under it out on the sidewalk. And to see it you have to . . . Look up! If you live where the night is full of stars . . . oh, lucky you!
Like listening, which is the active and selective form of hearing, looking is also a choice. Where will we pay that attention, and what are we getting for our “money?” Is it worth it? Healthy eyes will see. What their gaze attends to is up to us. I offer cheap diversions, simple, even silly suggestions. But maybe they’ll work for you, too.
We need all the tools we can find to endure the challenges of our time, whatever the depth of our experience. Looking and listening are assets; they can’t be hoarded. They can be performed inside or outdoors, sitting or moving, any time of the day or night, in public or private. And they are acts that take very little time in light of the benefit you might experience. I hope you do.
Day Ten: Listening
What are you listening to?
I’m not talking about what you can hear at the moment, though if I pause the light tapping of my fingers on the keyboard for a moment, I can hear a number of things: a far-off mower, Frank opening the back door, a plane’s distant rumble, the furnace–which was not running all this frigid morning, but hoorah for “essential services!” is now fixed–kicks on. I’ll be hearing the warm air blowing through the vents soon. Yup. There’s more to hear in any moment than we can pay attention to at once, our brain effectively shutting out what it deems non-essential in any given situation.
What I am talking about is not just the act of listening, of intentionally paying attention to the ambient sounds that surround us, but instead the choice to listen to a specific source of sound. Like Elton John, above. He’s clearly chosen to listen to something in those headphones, and that’s all he appears to be doing. He’s not also reading a book. He’s not looking at his phone that hasn’t been invented yet. He’s not knitting. Not clipping his nails, eating lunch, or any of the other things we typically do while wearing earbuds. He’s tuning in.
What are you tuning in to? Too much news? Your favorite outlet running nonstop in the background forming a sort of soundtrack for the day? (more…)
Day Nine: Wings #2
Cooped up. But here’s what I’m getting ready to read next. I’ve read The Hobbit before, and read it aloud to my children before, but it’s been quite some time. I’ve just finished reading a memoir, will finish up friend and DMQ Reviews’ editor Annie Kim’s remarkable new book of poetry, Eros Unbroken, and then, to the Hobbit hole, and there and back again. I’m ready to lose myself in this familiar tale, a hero’s journey, with all the page-turning adventures that lie along the way. You’ve never read it? Aw, come on!
Reading is one way to find some wings during this time of isolation and confinement. To be carried away on the wings of words, taken by the imagination, to lose myself in a narrative outside my own inner monologue offers a great escape, and somehow a way “there” into the unknown, and a way back, distracted if not renewed. But I hope renewed. What are you reading?
I found another type of wings: my bike! Do you have one? It was so invigorating to stream through the spring air, pedaling, pedaling, feeling wind on my face. Feeling distance pass beneath the tires, remembering how the body remembers, through movement. It’s so different from riding in/on a vehicle. To propel myself through space, foot to pedal, pedal to chain, chain to wheel, pushing, turning, spinning. Well clearly some imagination was at work as well, but even now I can re-imagine that short ride. I can breathe the memory in. There will be more.
We are cooped up, but we do have wings. Here’s another I’ve recently discovered. I’ve had a couple of distance visits using Zoom, a free online program, and while I can’t reach out and touch someone through the computer screen, it’s so great to see the faces of friends gathered in one “place.” I’ve got a virtual happy hour scheduled tomorrow. Such amazing new ways to connect, to spring out of the cages of our rooms and gloomy thoughts. What are your wings?
There and back again, that’s my goal this season. As with any hero’s journey, I don’t know where the way leads or how I’ll make it. Part of the journey involves self-care, another extending care to others, or as Amy Klobuchar said, to “be generous in spirit.” The two are linked, right? A broken spirit needs care in order to be generous, and quite often being generous buoys the spirit, another type of wings.