Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Art of the Interview - Seattle Review of Books

In a parallel world,  I am, in turn, a singer, a private detective, an interviewer of interesting people. Of these three professions, I think interviewer might suit me best. A few years ago I was the curator for the Jack Straw Writers Program and my favorite part of the job was interviewing the twelve writers. I learned that a good question can cajole a writer into areas of her (or his) psyche that they may have not ever explored. A strong interview has all the positive qualities of a really interesting conversation with the added benefit of a spotlight on your thoughts and theories.

What's not to love about being interviewed?

Well, if you are an introvert (like me) there are many things to obsess about before the interview; for example, sounding stupid would live at the top of my list.

Turns out, I needn't have worried. Paul Constant of the Seattle Review of Books was charming, intelligent, and best of all, inquisitive. He made me feel interesting and on occasion, smart.

It was an over-the-top honor to be chosen as Poet-in-Residence for the Seattle Review of Books and to be interviewed by Paul Constant (who I recently saw interview Fran Leibowitz at SAL) was the highpoint of the month.

Here's the beginning of the interview with a reveal as to central theme of my next book...

Susan Rich’s poems are beautiful music

by Paul Constant

Susan Rich’s poems thrum with a rhythm all their own. Read any of our May Poet in Residence’s poems and you’ll likely be absorbed in the rhythm of the thing — dense internal rhythms, tricky beats in single lines, sentences that shouldn’t exist but somehow manage to thrive.

I don’t know, for instance, how Rich makes a line like “we accordioned together vaudeville-style” work. But in “Self Portrait with Abortion and Bee Sting,” it not only scans but it feels essential — like the only words that could logically fit there. Her poems are full of those impossible lines — if I ever wrote something as beautiful about an earthworm as “Pink hermaphrodite of the jiggling zither,” I would probably retire in triumph.

to continue reading, click here

Friday, May 18, 2018

One Must Have a Mind of a Gardener

I love how this is beautiful, mystical, and disturbing all at once. In fact, I cannot stop looking. I only hope that my poem in some way enlivens it --- rather than takes away. The interplay of poem and image fascinates me. Here is this week's poem from the Seattle Review of Books with a big nod to Wallace Steven's  The Snow Man. I wonder what he would think?

to continue reading this poem, please check out the Seattle Review of Books ---- to which I am eternally thankful for their belief in my work and the choices that they have made for each week's poem. I especially love that this is appearing at the time that I desperately try to find time to get tomatoes into the ground.

Each year the belief in the indistinct and indeterminate future that it takes to do this amazes me. I didn't grow up gardening so the alchemy of dirt, water, and light to create edible plants simply amazes me. I don't think I am the only one! What do you love to plant?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Poet-in-Residence for the Month of May @ Seattle Review of Books

       I am so stoked to have been invited to be Poet-in-Residence at the Seattle Review of Books for the month of May. What this means is that each Tuesday a new poem of mine will appear on the site with a small tag that states, "Susan Rich is this month's Poet-in-Residence." There's something about being offered this platform by Paul Constant and Martin McClellan that makes me feel a bit more connected to my city. A bit more located.

      This week, my poem "Profiled" is featured; a poem about a student I had a few years ago who was both more fascinating and more frustrating than most who had come before. It is exhausting to be challenged on each word, each sentence, each assignment. And yet. He was engaged with his educational experience and wanted to learn. For the very last reflective assignment, an assignment that students had the option of writing as a letter to me about their experience he wrote: "I no longer feel the need to be invisible. And I thank you for that."

  Over the next three Tuesdays, there will be more poems posted. My hope is that the work reaches a wider audience, in this case, an audience of teachers and students who might not pick-up a poetry magazine. Coming up next: Scarecrows, Maps, and Bee Sting Abortions!

   I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of these pieces. "Poetry is a conversation with the world," Naomi Shihab Nye has stated. You come, too! Please pull your chair a little closer to the table. Everyone is welcome here.

Saturday, April 28, 2018


Watson recommends this poetry anthology! 

Sometimes a gift comes out of the universe by way of the Saturday morning mailbox. Today is such a day. This little book (which makes Watson, my tuxedo, look like a giant) is the anthology, IN THE SHAPE OF A HUMAN BODY I AM VISITING THE EARTH, edited by Ilya Kaminsky and published by McSweeney's. This is not just another anthology. This is the best anthology I have read in years because every poem will "grab you by the teeth" as the editors write in their introduction.

The poems here were originally published in Poetry International, the beautiful journal published by San Diego State University (where Kaminsky is on faculty). I can name names here: Tracy K. Smith, Charles Simic, Seamus Heaney, Jericho Brown, Federico Garcia Lorca, Mahmoud Darwish, Eavan Boland, Carolyn Forche, Eric McHenry, Anna Swir, Malena Moorling, Jane Hirshfield and many others. Too many to name and really what are names?

Here is is the poem that counts; the poem that will make you feel like the top of your head has been taken off (thanks, Emily). Will make you happy that poetry exists in the world --- the reasons for poetry are all here --- all from poets from across continents and timelines.

I'll copy the title poem out just to lure you into finding yourself a copy. It's only $14 and a perfect size for traveling. Let me be clear --- this won't earn the poets inside a penny but it will give readers great joy! I feel as if I've discovered a poem that I will hold close all my life.


In the shape of a human body
I am visiting the earth;
the trees visit
in the shape of trees.
Standing between the onions
and the dandilions
near the ailanthus and the bus stop,
I don't live more thoroughly
inside the mucilage of my own skull
than outside of it
and not more behind my eyes
than in what I can see with them.
I inhale whatever air
the grates breathe into me.
My arms and legs still work,
I can run if I have to
or sit motionless purposefully
until I am here and not here
the way death is present
in things that are alive
like salsa music
and the shrill laughter of the bride
as she leaves the wedding
or the bald child playing jacks
outside the wig shop.

       Malena Morling from the anthology:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tomorrow, 7 pm at WordsWest -- Come see Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Me~

I'm still in disbelief that I will be reading with Aimee Nezhukumatathil,  tomorrow night, Wednesday, April 18th. It seems impossible that after all the planning and organizing, the date will actually arrive. C and P Coffee Company is housed in a 1920's Craftsman and is the heart of our community. What better place to have a reading series? Come early to assure getting a seat --- then you can order your coffee, beer, or wine. See you soon!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Special Interview with poet Cindy Veach - pre-event!

Cindy Veach reads at 7:00 pm at Elliott Bay Book Company, this Friday

I caught up with Cindy Veach and had the chance to ask her a few questions about her debut collection, Gloved Against Blood. If you want to learn about her work before the reading tomorrow night, here are her words on writing, research, and family secrets. See you tomorrow!

SR: Can you tell us about the different kinds of research you did for this book? Was it all book research or did you visit the Lowell Mills and other places you conjure so beautifully?

CV: I began my research with books and online sites. I waited several months to actually visit the Lowell National Park where the Lowell Mills are located. I wanted to have a solid base of information before engaging in that experience. Book research continued along with a second visit to the mills.  The two books that were most informative for me were, The Belles of New England, by William Moran and The Lowell Offering: Writings by Mill Women 1840-1945 edited by Benita Eisler.

SR     This book is full of family secrets --- from the workers in the mills up to more present day. How did you negotiate this within yourself?

CV: Great question! This did take some self-negotiation and it took time. Some poems, ultimately, were left out of the manuscript and I have no regrets about those decisions. I believe that those that survived serve a purpose – to preserve something of the details of lives so they are not completely lost.

SR.     Now that GLOVED AGAINST BLOOD is out in the world, has it changed how you see the work or how you see yourself as a poet?

CV: When I was deeply working on the manuscript it was difficult to see the whole. Now, that it is done and in the world, I see it from a different vantage point. One where I can see more of the inner connectedness of the poems and the progression. At the same time, I feel more distanced from it. And by that I mean it feels complete/done and I can move on.

SR.     I know this is an unfair question but if you had to choose a favorite poem from the book which would it be? Another way to look at this is --- which is your favorite poem of the moment and why?

C: My personal favorite is French Seams. This poem went through many revisions and originally was half the length it is now. When I eventually wrote the second half of the poem is when it became a poem.

SR.     Are you at work on a new book? Can you tell us something about it?

CV: I am working on a new book. Like Gloved Against Blood, it is also rooted in local history. In this case, the Salem Witch Trials. Salem, MA creates a great deal of cognitive dissonance for me. On the one hand there is the tragic history of the witch trials and the fact that 20 innocent individuals were executed while on the other hand there is the witch kitsch culture that drives the tourist the town depends on.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

National Poetry Month: Expanding Existence with Aimee Nezhukumatathil at WordsWest Literary, April 18th

Open up your calendars on screen or on paper! Here are some poetry dates to hold.

I'm still in disbelief that I will be reading with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Wednesday night, April 18th, in less than a month. It seems impossible that after all the planning and organizing, the date will actually arrive. C and P Coffee Company is housed in a 1920's Craftsman and is the heart of our community. What better place to have a reading series?

Perhaps I can get back in the reading groove at 7:00 pm this Friday night, March 30th, when I read with Cindy Veach at Elliott Bay Book Company. Her debut collection, Gloved Against Blood is amazing in so many ways. Here is what I've written about its brilliance.

"For me, Gloved Against Blood holds the perfect image for these beautiful poems that struggle to push away received histories. From the immigrant mill girls in 19th century Lowell, Massachusetts to contemporary cafĂ© workers who sell espresso / fifteen ways, we need to protect ourselves against hard times—against the firm eye of the needle—against forces we cannot control no matter how hard we work to sew or mend. This is an extremely fine and forceful debut."

I am thrilled to be reading with both these marvelous poets on the precipice of National Poetry Month and then again, two weeks later. Seattle is indeed an international city of literature, we'd love to have you come visit, too.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Surprises of the Best Kind

wild birds enjoying a few coffee beans without harm from nets

      A few years ago I published a poem titled "Boketto" which appeared on the Academy of American Poetry site and led to some lovely emails from old friends as well as a few folks I didn't know. There's nothing better than when a stranger reaches out to tell me a poem that I wrote moved them. In fact, it may be the best reason to publish work that exists: a one to one call and response.

      Someone who wrote to me then has just emailed me again asking for advice on some new poems. These aren't just new poems as in just having been written, these are new poems in that actually writing poems is new to this person. How cool is that for a stranger to trust me with brand new work?

     This person contacted me because of one line in the poem, "Boketto." It's "we leaned/into the morning: bird friendly coffee and blueberry toast." It turns out, the person who wrote to me is a coffee importer and roaster of bird friendly coffee!  This seems such a great example of the magical routes that poetry takes through the world.

  Another poetry surprise this month has been my amazing students at Highline College. Their po-jacks of "Again" by Jericho Brown, "The Rape Joke" by Patricia Lockwood, and "The Applicant," by Sylvia Plath were just amazing. These are undergraduates who for the most part, had only written one other poem in their lives. Whatever the reason these three poems opened up deep passageways into their inner lives.

I know there were a few more positive surprises but I will hold to these two for now. Until next week!



Thursday, February 8, 2018

"Feminist Poetry is having a Renaissance" This Week's Headline! - Poems, Events, and a Confession

Kelli Russell Agodon and me at Kabul before the reading

Sometimes it's amazing what we can pull together in an hour. Last Friday afternoon, I learned our MC for the Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse reading, Martha Silano, was unable to make the event; could I step in? Sure, anything for poetry! The six women in the photograph below made the evening memorable --- as did the standing room only audience at Open Books.

The same day as our reading, an article was published on the PBS Newshour "Feminist Poetry is Having a Renaissance." I must confess, the headline had me doing a doubletake.

I've written about outsider artists such as Myra Albert Wiggins and Hannah Maynard --- women photographers of the late 19th century that were decades ahead of their time. More recently, I've focused my poems on the work of the three Surreal Friends --- Leonora CarringtonKati Horna, and Remedios Varo. Women artists who emigrated from Europe during World War II and lived in Mexico City gaining acclaim for their work in a kind of sideways fashion.

For years my poems have focused on these women --- and women in my own life.  I know that being part of a community of women poets and artists has deeply influenced my work in subtle and less subtle ways.

This past winter while at a writing residency, needing to write out of my own traumatic past, I turned to the new anthology Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse to give me the extra push I needed. If these women could write eloquently and with anger concerning abortion, rape, heartbreak, and healing --- who was I not to write my own truth?

This Saturday, fantastic friend and poet, Kelli Russell Agodon and I will teach a one-day writers retreat in Seattle. The request came from women in the community to add another day of writing  and community, a mini version of Poets on the Coast which we have been running for almost 8 years.

In other words, although writing is usually a solitary endeavor, the lives of women writers and artists is not. The artistic collaborations and personal friendship between Leonora Carrington, Kati Horna, and Remedios Varo has been documented in a gorgeous book, Surreal Friends by Stefan Van Raay and Joanna Moorhead. Which important artistic and poetic friendships will be documented for this time we live in?   

Oh yes, I almost forgot --- here are links to two poems of mine about women that were published this week. In the gorgeous Construction Magazine you can find "You've Always Had The Power---" a political retelling of Dorothy's commitment to Oz and in the Baltimore Review, "Coordinates," about a powerful friendship between women --- a subject whose time has come. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

What Does it Mean to be a Poet in 2018 in the International City of Literature?

The "nasty poets" of Washington are reading together on Friday at Open Books 
Dare I say that the state of poetry is quickly changing and that while much of it is for the best, there are some things that I really do miss.

I miss an afternoon at home without interruption of FB posts or tweets or even email. I miss the decades when there was no chance of the outside world coming inside on a rainy Sunday. Curling up with a book today oftentimes means curling up with a Kindle and a phone. That's why writers' residencies are especially sought after these days --- a place away from the ever encroaching distractions of the world.

And yet. We are currently in a Poetry Renaissance.

Living in Seattle, WA, means that I'm surrounded by poets and writers, visual artists and musicians. This is a city where people come off of their devices to gather face-to-face. Before I moved to Seattle I had given perhaps three poetry readings in my entire life. It just wasn't something a poet did. Now I live in a city that sustains poetry reading series in every neighborhood --- from Ballard to West Seattle. I am a proud co-founder of the WordsWest Literary series held at C & P Coffee Company.

This is all a long introduction to what I appreciate about poetry in this shiny, new year.

1. Open Books: A Poem Emporium
Not only is it an honor and a joy to have a space devoted to poetry books and therefore poetry people, in my adopted hometown; it's also my favorite place in Seattle to read because you can actually hear the audience listening. The quality of attention can be felt throughout the room.

2. Poetry Podcasts 
My commute to work allows me the luxury of hearing Don Share, Christina Pugh and others at  Poetry Magazine give a close reading of one poem a week -- or four poems a month. Even in the craziness of my day I can listen to poetry.

3. Poet Friends
Over the course of the last two decades, poetry has become my way of life. It's impossible to overestimate how important these friendships have been in terms of my identity as a poet and a person --- which is a strange thing to say, I know. Without poetry friends like Kelli Russell Agodon, Elizabeth Austen, and Kathleen Flenniken my life would be so much less than it is.

4. Poetry Journals
I used to think I had a pretty good handle on the world of lit journals --- no longer. The proliferation of on-line journals has changed the landscape for the better but also made it hard to keep up. A few journals that are new to me and that I admire include Qu Literary Journal which publishes on-line and in a perfect bound journal, Construction Literary Magazine -- an online journal that mixes architecture, fiction, and poetry, and Helen -- an on-line journal that often creates short videos of the poems showcased in the journal. The quality of the visual poems varies widely but what a cool idea!

5. Poetry Communities / Poets on the Coast

If you know me at all, you've heard me sing the praises of the women's writing community that Kelli Russell Agodon and I started almost 8 years ago. We simply wanted to create a poetry weekend for women writers --- the type that we would want to attend. So we found a beautiful small town by water, created a fun curriculum, and came armed with grocery bags of snacks. We had no idea if anyone would come or how it would all work out. Eight years later, we are thriving and some of the women that were there that first year are still coming back for more poetry and closer community. From this one weekend has spawned workshops meeting throughout Western Washington, group readings, and even one house share!

This is all to say: I'm thankkful. I'm grateful that I didn't listen to my college professors when these well meaning (?) white men who told me not to bother to write (who says that?) and I'm grateful to this city -- now an International City of Literature for providing inspiration and sustenance for all of us.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Confession and A Poem (Not Mine)

Natalie Portman, Viola Davis, and Scarlet Johansson
I attended the Women's March last year, the largest gathering of protesters in Seattle since anyone began keeping records. It was a gorgeous day from start to finish with strangers squeezing the extra inch to let other marchers on the bus and customers bussing tables when the small restaurants along the route were overwhelmed once the day's activities ended. It was in all honesty, one of the most memorable days of my life.

Dear Reader, this year I allowed the beginning of a head cold, the light rain, and the last year's political nightmare to dissuade me from getting on the bus. I'm not proud of this. Later, I realized if I had made plans with a group of friends (who were meeting up before the march) it would have catapulted me out of my funk --- so I will remember that for next year.

Instead, I told myself I had to make really good use of the day --- beyond grading papers and doing laundry (both of which I am now behind on). I worked on poems, sent out a packet of poems for submission, and then I wrote a letter to someone whom I had been wanting to write for over a year. Something about the day gave me that "now or never" push to ask for what I really want from this world. And even if my letter remains unanswered, or isn't answered as I hope for, I've done the hard work of putting into the universe what I want. Please wish me luck and I promise to report back.

In the meantime here is a poem by the poet who has most inspired me to write and to live well.


   Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750—1848) astronomer, sister of William; and others. 

  A woman in the shape of a monster   
  a monster in the shape of a woman   
  the skies are full of them

  a woman      ‘in the snow
  among the Clocks and instruments   
  or measuring the ground with poles’

  in her 98 years to discover   
  8 comets

  she whom the moon ruled   
  like us
  levitating into the night sky   
  riding the polished lenses

  Galaxies of women, there
  doing penance for impetuousness   
  ribs chilled   
  in those spaces    of the mind

  An eye,

          ‘virile, precise and absolutely certain’
          from the mad webs of Uranusborg

                                                            encountering the NOVA   

  every impulse of light exploding

  from the core
  as life flies out of us

             Tycho whispering at last
             ‘Let me not seem to have lived in vain’

  What we see, we see   

  and seeing is changing

to continue reading this poem by Adrienne Rich

Monday, January 15, 2018

An Action Doll, a Librarian, a Fiction Writer, and a Poet - 7 pm, This Wednesday, January 17th

These two women were among the first that welcomed me to Seattle 18 years ago. A lifetime ago, for sure. How excited I am to host them at 7 pm, this Wednesday, January 17th at WordsWest housed at C & P Coffee. We are also co-sponsored by Hedgebrook this month with author, Allison Green gifting us her favorite poem.

There is so much more to say about these amazing women and this one of a kind coffeehouse come community center but for now all I ask is that you check out these links for Susan Landgraf, Nancy Pearl, and the emergency Go Fund Me Campaign to save our literary home at C & P Coffee Company. 

Please consider coming out and joining us for the new year. And just look at our theme!

WordsWest Literary Series Presents
“Broken Promises—Resolutions, Riots, and Repair”
with Nancy Pearl and Susan Landgraf
Favorite Poem by Allison Green, Hedgebrook alumna
7:00 pm, Wed., Jan. 17, 2018C & P Coffee Co.5612 California Ave. SW 98136
WEST SEATTLE—In new year’s crush of resolutions, WordsWest Literary Series welcomes “America’s librarian” and author Nancy Pearl and poet Susan Landgraf for “Broken Promises—Resolutions, Riots, and Repair,” an unearthing of the stories that lie under promises made to loved ones and to the land, promises abandoned, and the incremental mending. WordsWest Literary Series is grateful Hedgebrook’s sponsorship of this evening, as well as for grant funding from Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and Poets & Writers, Inc. that allows us to pay our writers for their time and talent.

Nancy Pearl’s life has been shaped by her love of books and reading, and with the recent publication of George and Lizzie, she now adds “novelist” to the list of her accomplishments. Inspired by her childhood librarians, Nancy became a librarian herself, working in Detroit, Tulsa, and Seattle. After retiring as Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library, Nancy wrote the “Book Lust” series, four titles filled with recommendations of good books to read. She has received many awards and honors, including being the 50th recipient of the Woman’s National Book Association Award and being named Librarian of the Year by Library Journal in 2011.

Susan Landgraf’s What We Bury Changes the Ground, a full-length poetry collection, was published by Tebot Bach in 2017. She’s published poems, essays, and articles in more than 150 journals, magazines, and newspapers, including Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Margie, Nimrod, and Ploughshares, and given more than 150 writing workshops, including at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, Centrum, the Marine and Science Technology Center, and Kahini in Jamaica. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook Other Voices; Prentice Hall published Student Reflection Journal for Student Success. A book of writing exercises is forthcoming from Two Sylvias Press in 2018.
Every third Wednesday, 7pm, at C & P Coffee Company, WordsWest hosts literary events that range from readings by published local and national authors, to craft discussions and guided writing explorations for every experience level. Each month a community member from a local, independent business shares his or her favorite poem as part of the Favorite Poem Project. On January 17lth, we welcome a favorite poem from Allison Green, memoir writer, novelist, and an alumna of Hedgebrook, which empowers women writers to connect through residencies, master class retreats, workshops, and writing salons.
WordsWest is curated by West Seattle writers Katy E. Ellis, Susan Rich, and Harold Taw, and this season's intern/co-curator is Joannie Stangeland. Join us on FaceBook.
For more information, please contact WordsWest by email or visit our website.

C & P Coffee Co. link:
Hedgebrook link:
WordsWest by email link:
visit our website link

Thursday, January 11, 2018

After 30 Years, I Write a Poem

Dear Reader,

Now that I've practiced my literary confessions a couple of times, I think I'm getting the hang of it. So here goes something.

When I was in my twenties I joined the US Peace Corps and worked in West Africa as an English teacher at Lycee Korundaga, in Zinder, Niger. Many things happened during that time that still impact who I am now, 30 years later. The book I'm working on now goes back to that time and takes a look around.

This poem, published in Qu Literary Journal yesterday, took me 30 years to write. Qu is a Canadian journal that publishes on-line and in print. The editors have worked hard to make sure that I'm happy with how the poem looks. It feels very strange to have this poem in the world. Finally, after 30 years.

Post Abortion Questionnaire Powered By Survey Monkey

1. Do you feel reluctant to talk about the subject of abortion?
In the center of the ceiling a marigold weeps
or perhaps it’s an old chandelier.
Inside, there’s an interior glow,
shards illuminated in violet-pink 
and layers of peeling gold leaf. 
Such minds at night unfold.

2. Do you feel guilt or sorrow when discussing your own abortion?
The cabbage is a blue rose, 
an alchemical strip show. They scream 
when dragged from the earth
only to find themselves plunged into boiling water. 
The narrative unscrolls from cells
of what-ifs and hourglass hopes. 

3. Have you found yourself either avoiding relationships or becoming 
overly dependent in them since the abortion?
If I could unhinge myself from myself,
attach to bookshelves, sever
my tongue, I would watch
as it grew back, rejuvenated
and ready to speak.                               to continue reading, click here

Sunday, January 7, 2018

An Early Confession: Poetry, Art, and "Gigantic Day"

I think this is the confessional Varos had in mind

Dear Reader,

This is my second ever confession. I'm still trying to get the hang of this.

Perhaps this should be the Poetry and Art Confessional. I am not one for making New Year's Resolutions as they seem a recipe for failure (for me) but I do want to work on making changes in my life. The first one is to keep Poetry more at the center of my world. There are lots of ways to do this.

This week I spent a few hours writing poems with a good friend and neighbor. Once a month we do this armed with strong coffee and light snacks (an orange, some almonds). One of us always writes something amazing (I think it's usually her, she oftentimes thinks it's me). No matter what we write, we have fun and get to share poems together and check-in on the other's writing projects. At the end of our time together, we share drafts of poems and provide suggestions for revision.

Writing with Elizabeth often leads to my typing up the poems I've written with her and that leads to looking at what other poems I might have in the "not quite cooked" category.

Revelation of the Clockmaker, Remedios Varo
Here is a poem that Elizabeth brought this week to share. "Gigantic Day" by Michelle Boisseau captures that urban rush---when an ordinary day might seem epic --- especially if you are in a new environment. The location here  is (it seems) London but it could just as easily be Boston or Seattle. On the first read, I thought this was clearly a springtime poem but instead it may be any season at the New Covent Garden Flower Market. No matter.

What the poem captures is music and joy, "foxgloves juggling their freckled bells."

And as I head back to an overflowing work schedule this week, I want more than ever to keep poems of everyday celebration in my mind. The irony that this day is a "Gigantic Day" is perhaps what I love best.

Michelle Boisseau died of lung cancer last year and yet I am just being introduced to her with this poem. One resolution (I said I didn't make them!) is to live each day as if in its own way it is Gigantic. And of course it is for me -- how many days do any of us have left to celebrate?

Gigantic Day

We are bemoaning how the rising 
 deluxe condos will bully the river 

 when jittering toward us come irises 
 rocked in a beaming woman’s arms. 

 Then all along Millbank they come 
 hugging froths and sprays from the selloff, 

 blue dithers and nodding nasturtiums, 
 foxgloves jiggling their freckled bells, 

 from shopping bag and trolley dangle 
 panting fuchsias and apricot roses, 

 a Japanese maple whirls in a tango 
 through the taxis on Chelsea Bridge Road 

 and a warble of calla lilies opens up 
 to hit the high note that rumbles through us 

 as we all stream toward the tube stop, 
 past the humming double-decker bus 

 where every lap is plumped with bounty 
 and down we go following a crush 

 of petals onto the underground 
 platforms brimming for the rush.

                       Michelle Boisseau

Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Weekly Poem / Not My Poem: The Bridge / C.Dale Young

Dear Reader,

I think discovering a new, amazing poem (even if it is only new to you) is one of the great joys in life. The Bridge by C. Dale Young  is the poem I woke-up to this morning (you can stroll down and read it now, or wait) . And perhaps because in Seattle today, the sky is oatmeal-colored, this poem seemed even more shimmery.

It's clear from the very first line that Young is risking sentimentality with I love. Altogether love is repeated 14 times throughout  the poem --- a nod perhaps --- to a traditional love sonnet. It doesn't matter --- the pleasure of this poem, for me, comes from being able to luxuriate in the specifics: first of words (parallel and then mirror) and then quotidian objects (ice cream, fountain pens, bubbles). The poem is overflowing with pleasure.

There is a great deal of cleverness here to enjoy: the mirroring of mirror and the parallel lines in parallel, for a few examples, but I am not a fan of cleverness for cleverness sake (although it is certainly fun here). Instead what I admire here are the different declarations of love --- including love of self and other.

But what I keep returning to is the final image of the suspension bridge, the Golden Gate bridge, swinging over the bay.  I can see these two lovers holding hands, swinging their arms out the way one does --- with lovers, husbands, or small children. There is an innocence here and a desire.

C. Dale Young- Poet/Fiction Writer/Medical Doctor

As I read "The Bridge" I don't know where I am going ---Narcissus, Achilles heel, the 1950's? And yet, I'm invited along for the ride. The poem is so intimate and yet never private.

I've never met C. Dale Young (except on-line and when he was kind enough, years ago, to take some of my poems for New England Review where he was Poetry Editor for a long time) but through this poem I feel welcomed into his life --- into the joy he shares with his beloved husband (or so I imagine). I can't remember the last time I read a contemporary poem that did this and did this so deftly, so beautifully.

My hope is to discover at least one amazing poem to share with you each week. The best kind of treasure hunt. And in case you are looking for more of C. Dale's work, the Poetry Foundation website is an excellent resource.

Until soon~


The Bridge

I love. Wouldn't we all like to start

a poem with "I love . . ."? I would.

I mean, I love the fact there are parallel lines

in the word "parallel," love how

words sometimes mirror what they mean.

I love mirrors and that stupid tale

about Narcissus. I suppose

there is some Narcissism in that.

You know, Narcissism, what you

remind me to avoid almost all the time.

Yeah, I love Narcissism. I do.

But what I really love is ice cream.

Remember how I told you

no amount of ice cream can survive

a week in my freezer. You didn't believe me,

did you? No, you didn't. But you know now

how true that is. I love

that you know my Achilles heel

is none other than ice cream—

so chilly, so common.

And I love fountain pens. I mean

I just love them. Cleaning them,

filling them with ink, fills me

with a kind of joy, even if joy

is so 1950. I know, no one talks about

joy anymore. It is even more taboo

than love. And so, of course, I love joy.

I love the way joy sounds as it exits

your mouth. You know, the word joy.

How joyous is that. It makes me think

of bubbles, chandeliers, dandelions.

I love the way the mind runs

that pathway from bubbles to dandelions.

Yes, I love a lot. And right here,

walking down this street,

I love the way we make

a bridge, a suspension bridge

—almost as beautiful as the

Golden Gate Bridge—swaying

as we walk hand in hand.

C. Dale Young, "The Bridge" from Torn. Copyright © 2011 by C. Dale Young. Reprinted by permission of Four Way Books.