Mark your calendars for this Saturday at 11 a.m. for a virtual reading Via Zoom of the winning sonnets in the Maria Faust Sonnet Contest, which includes my sonnet “The Worth of August”! If all goes well I will read my sonnet; a family health crisis that came up unexpectedly means I’m not sure I can do this, but hope I can. And if I can’t , they have wonderful readers from among the judges and actors from the Shakespearean Festival acting company. The other winners are quite an impressive group, including poets Gail White, Barbara Loots, and Richard Meyer (who’s frequently won prizes in this contest). Not to ignore the others, including the top three prizewinners. It’s a fantastic event, so don’t miss it. Just click the link above. So excited to be a part of this great tradition!
Poetry International has published my review of Adeeba Shahid Talukder’s Kundiman Prize-winning debut full-length poetry collection Shahr-e-Jaanaan: City of the Beloved (Tupelo Press, 2020), a truly gorgeous unforgettable book available at Tupelo Press and Barnes & Noble and elsewhere (including you-know-who – let’s try other places first).
Check out the review!
My history of the ghazal form, “Ghazal Culture: Exalted Nomads and Love’s Elusive Gate,” has been published on The Chained Muse! The history is quite surprising, how a form that developed out of a desert Arab tradition flowered in Bollywood, influenced such diverse cultures as Persia, Afghanistan, and Western Europe, and has been written in myriad languages, even instrumental in the development of a modern, commonly used language. Please check it out!
My ghazal “Delivery,” originally published on the wonderful SWWIM website, has now been published in the Orison Anthology, which I now hold in my hands!! SWWIM, which is based in Miami and publishes poetry by women, nominated my poem for the Orison Anthology, a prestigious anthology of spiritual writing which also holds an annual contest for poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. It’s a huge and unexpected honor to have my poem included!! A copy of the Anthology can be purchased here, where you will also find (my name among) the names of contributors, including contest winners.
In honor of the first landing and walking of a human on the moon on July 16, 1969, with the Apollo 11 space program, here’s my poem “Moon Landing”:
Past the craters’ cutthroat edges, a calculus
of wings unfurls. Our minds tighten ship
through gutwrench math toward the plain of shadows,
our words mere nuts and bolts. No miracles
until the deed is done. Split-second jams
conveyed in jargon to the gods of Houston,
with us, with us — an aura of omniscience
far from where they smoke and stare at screens.
Roger—can you see us? Roger—tell us
where the metal butterfly’s approach
will touch the myth, the mirror, violate
the mover of the tides we left behind.
In blackdrop space, the blue/white marbled globe
beams a bright pang on this gray-scale world
so desolate no ghosts or fossils haunt
the place we plunge toward. Trajectories
morph, equations go awry. The roughed-up
desert seas, gaps of annihilation
we grip in practiced hands and potent codes.
Against the graves and gravity, we scan
for flatness down breathless degrees, deploy
a subtle physics, gear, grace of God,
touchdown. We’re in black and white. Alive.
The gods unclench their fists and spit their gum—
our footfalls sink into the regolith
that yields our perfect prints in perfect gray.
Marie Ponsot, who died on July 5, 2019, at the age of 98, left a legacy of elegantly crafted, deeply meaningful and yet entirely unique poetry in five collections, winning the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Robert Frost Medal, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for Lifetime Achievement, among others. From the Washington Post article regarding her death,
Reflecting on Ms. Ponsot’s work, the poet and critic Susan Stewart once wrote: “What she has written of her relation to the night sky — ‘it becomes the infinite / air of imagination that stirs immense / among losses and leaves me less desolate’ — could be claimed by her readers as a description of her own work…
Married to the painter Claude Ponsot, she wrote her first poetry collection dedicated to him, and titled it True Minds, taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. They had seven children, and when they divorced in 1970, she published her second book of poetry entitled Admit Impediment, also taken from the same sonnet: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ admit impediments.” This is the sort of imaginative wordplay one can find in her work, not without its subtle humor either.
She retreated from publishing for about 25 years, although she continuously wrote poetry. She said it just “didn’t occur” to her to publish. There’s also an element of deep humility in her life and voice, which also rings confidently and with both gusto and acumen.
This poem I found particularly gorgeous:
This Bridge, Like Poetry, Is Vertigo
In a time of dearth bring forth number, weight, & measure.– William Blake
Describing the wind that drives it, cloud
rides between earth and space. Cloud
shields earth from sun-scorch. Cloud
bursts to cure earth’s thirst. Cloud
–airy, wet, photogenic–
is a bridge or go-between;
it does as it is done by.
It condenses. It evaporates.
It draws seas up, rains down.
I do love the drift of clouds.
Cloud-love is irresistible,
Deep above the linear city this morning
the cloud’s soft bulk is almost unmoving.
The winds it rides are thin;
it makes them visible.
As sun hits it or if sun
quits us it’s blown away
or rains itself or snows itself away.
It is indefinite:
This dawns on me: no cloud is measurable.
Make mine cloud.
Make mind cloud.
The clarity of cloud is in its edgelessness,
its each instant of edge involving
in formal invention, always
at liberty, at it, incessantly altering.
A lucky watcher will catch it
as it makes big moves:
up the line of sight it lifts
until it conjugates or
its unidentical being intact
though it admits flyers.
It lets in wings. It lets them go.
It lets them.
It embraces mountains & spires built
to be steadfast; as it goes on
it lets go of them.
It is not willing.
It is not unwilling.
Late at night when my outdoors is
indoors, I picture clouds again:
Come to mind, cloud.
Come to cloud, mind.
(Note the wordplay here, evident throughout her poetry.)
Writing poems by hand and putting down ideas on scraps of paper or napkins between changing diapers and all the labor-intensive work that goes with raising children, she is a very sympathetic character, a teacher, translator, essayist and critic. Her poetry shows formal dexterity, imagination, and a delightful spirit.
Here is a beautiful sample of her more formal poetry and her depth of understanding:
What women wander?
Not many. All. A few.
Most would, now & then,
& no wonder.
Some, and I’m one,
Wander sitting still.
My small grandmother
Bought from every peddler
Less for the ribbons and lace
Than for their scent
Of sleep where you will,
Walk out when you want, choose
Your bread and your company.
She warned me, “Have nothing to lose.”
She looked fragile but had
High blood, runner’s ankles,
Could endure, endure.
She loved her rooted garden, her
Grand children, her once
Wild once young man.
As best they can.
The lovely publisher and online venue Animal Heart Press is featuring my poetry and photography on on their site starting today, June 10, for one week!!! Today’s featured poem is “In the Interim.” Check the site daily for more poetry, photography, poetry readings from my new book To Love the River, an interview, and for a finale, a short film!! Huge thanks to Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Horan, Assistant Editor Amanda McLeod, and the whole AP team. A dream to work with!!!
Updates: Friday, June 14, I read selections from my book, To Love the River!
Thursday, June 13 (as well as Tuesday June 11), poetry and photography posted.
Wednesday, June 12, interview with Amanda posted. Please check it out!