Leftover*

February 21, 2021


2020 Merit Award
By Alexandra M. Lucas

Left over
Fruit left off the vine too long without being eaten
Left instead to decay
In the back of a crate
In some cheery farmer’s market
With no air conditioning

Almost all sold
We did well
Good enough!

Now I must do the proper thing —
Collapse into myself
On the bruises and patches of skin
That have lost their softness

Fade from view
So the ones approaching ripeness
Won’t be afraid

A cautionary tale

Look away, now
Look away

*Copyright 2020 by Alexandra M. Lucas. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

For Whose Eyes and Ears

February 20, 2021

This is a guest post
by Jed Myers

In the lore of therapy, it’s said a person’s emotional state will improve with keeping a journal. The benefit holds even if the journal entries are never shared with another soul. Does that mean we need only ever spell things out for ourselves alone? Or does it mean that the act of writing is so fundamentally relational, no actual other is needed for the experience of being heard and understood by another?

Words have evolved for the conveyance of one being’s experience to another. So even when we speak in our imaginations, talk to ourselves, or write our private entries, we are invoking the presence of another, however invisible.

I do wonder, for whose eyes do we place the words of our reflections on the page? In whose ears do we hope our written words will ring? And whose are the minds and hearts we want to stir with what we’ve written?

I’m sure there’s no simple or single answer to any such questions. But I’m also sure — from tuning in to my own process of writing, if by nothing else — that there is an envisioned other, or a collection of others, that we’ve got a representation of in the wings of the act of writing, to whom, in the writing, we’re speaking.

Maybe this goes against a kind of purist’s notion of writing only for oneself. I don’t know. It could be that an implicit other just like oneself, a mirror twin, so to speak, is such a purist’s other. The writing that would emerge in that spirit might be more idiosyncratic, harder for the rest of us to “get,” but it might be in its own way just right — the words chosen and arranged for the dear twin who will understand perfectly.

Then there’s the writing for a different other, or for a gathering (in the mind’s amphitheater) of others of varied sensibilities. Perhaps these are the presences some of us want to touch with our words. These imagined others might stand in for real expectable readers in the world. We can’t be sure how they’ll hear us, as we don’t know just how they think and feel. How will our poems ring with them?

That question’s at my shoulder while I work out my lines. It can serve to press me, word by word, closer to the marrow, where I’ll find more intuitive sureness of common feeling, even across cultures and times.

I like to invite one odd other to the gathering and to be sure that figure’s listening — a guest from some time in the future, when my life’s been over long enough that those who’ve remembered me are gone. I reach for what might make that other grateful to have stumbled onto my words. I’ll write what I need to say — as if in my journal — that will also close the rift of space and time, so that my guest might feel that a hundred years ago is more or less last week. That’s what I feel sometimes reading Sappho or Du Fu — the intimacy of distant solitudes.

. . . . .

Jed Myers lives in Seattle, where, aside from writing, he’s a psychiatrist with a therapy practice and a Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at the University of Washington. He’s author of Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), The Marriage of Space and Time (MoonPath Press), and four chapbooks, including Dark’s Channels (Iron Horse Literary Review Chapbook Award) and Love’s Test (winner, Grayson Books Chapbook Contest). Recognitions include Southern Indiana Review’s Editors’ Award, the Prime Number Magazine Award, The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Prize, and The Tishman Review’s Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize. Poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Poetry Northwest, The American Journal of Poetry, Southern Poetry Review, The Greensboro Review, multiple anthologies, including Two-Countries: US Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents (Red Hen Press) and Take a Stand: Art Against Hate (Raven Chronicles Press), and many other publications. Poems are forthcoming in New York Quarterly, Tupelo Quarterly, Cutthroat, Sequestrum, and Galleywinter Poetry Series. Two essays on poetry and medicine have appeared in JAMA. Jed is Poetry Editor for the journal Bracken.

Jed Myers will co-feature with Charles Rafferty in the Poets in Conversation reading series on Saturday, May 22, 2021, 4:00pm Pacific. Details and access information will be posted on this site and on The Poetry Department Calendar page.

Author photo by Alina Rios
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Mini Lit Fair – tomorrow!

February 19, 2021

The annual print journal Moss has rounded up literary organizations from across Cascadia to present a marathon of poetry, storytelling, and lyrical cinema, tomorrow, Saturday, February 20, 2021. Featured readers include (among many others) Jess Walter, Shelley Wong, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, the Cadence: Video Poetry Festival, plus a panel discussion between publication editors and curators.

It’s all free. See the complete details here and register here.

a busy evening

February 18, 2021

Sometimes, there’s just too much going on. Today, Thursday, February 18, 2021, is one of those days. Choices must be made, but you may be able to squeeze in two of these three temptations.

We already mentioned Poetry & The Wild, a reading and conversation with Jane Hirshfield, at 5:00pm Pacific.

Maddeningly, at the same time, poet Lorna Crozier will be the inaugural speaker for The Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild Well-Versed: A Lecture Series.

Finally, Margin Shift: Friends in Poetry presents Jeffrey Cheatham II, Jamaica Baldwin, Jeanne Morel, and Alicia Cohen, online at Airmeet (“doors” 6:30pm, poetry 7:00pm).

The events are free, but registration is required.

virtual book fair

February 17, 2021

The website doesn’t offer a lot of detail on how it works, but SMOL Fair is an alternative book fair that will be live online between Wednesday, March 3, and Sunday, March 7, 2021. There will be readings, giveaways, and discounts, plus, it’s a great introduction to the 130 participating presses, including many that may be entirely new to you.

new titles

February 16, 2021

Here are some recommended titles to look forward to in 2021:

Happy reading!

what a list!

February 15, 2021

banner for PEN Literary Awards finalists

PEN America has announced the finalists for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards, and what a list it is!

To make their decisions, the judges narrowed down 1850+ submissions to 55 books, spanning 11 awards in the categories of science writing, the essay, poetry and short story collections, translation, the novel, and more. Twenty of the books featured are from writers making their literary debuts. Half of the open-genre award finalists are poetry collections.

The winners will be celebrated at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony, to take place virtually on Thursday, April 8, 2021, and will be open to a global audience. (Details TBA.)

the basket weaver*

February 14, 2021


2020 Merit Award
By Penelope Keep, Grade 8

behold the basket
gaze upon the careful weave
each piece of cedar bark cut
each wicklike willow strand maneuvered
into its own
the next no different,
not the same

between the folds, each resource glints
giving itself up
being taken in
by the calloused hands who remember
that each tall tree, each abandoned ribbon of sap
creates a bigger, a better, a more beautiful
whole

and the hole, just there, is it also beautiful?
the frustration, the imperfection, the dropped stitch
machines could gloss each one without care,
no thought, no need for a furrowed brow that beads
the racing mind of the man
who sits, surrounded by his own creation
upon the garden he harvests from

*Copyright 2020 by Penelope Keep. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

We’ve mentioned the Western Washington University Children’s Literature Conference before. Now in its 18th year and typically attracting more than 600 participants, the Conference has assumed a new shape for 2021 to contend with travel and gathering restrictions.

It begins with a free, month-long virtual exhibit of work by the writers and illustrators of children’s literature. With a theme of Art as Protest / Art in the Time of COVID, the collection is varied and rich, offering a look into the creative range of the 20-plus exhibitors. It will remain on view through Sunday, February 28, 2021.

The exhibit also invites written and visual responses from the community. These will be displayed online. To submit work (or a link to existing work), complete the Community Exhibit Submission form.

On Saturday, February 27, the CLC will offer morning and afternoon conversations around themes and ideas that emerge from the Virtual Exhibit. There will be no formal presentations. Everyone is welcome; registration is free but required.

on poetry

February 12, 2021

“My love for looking deeply and closely at the world, for putting my whole self into it, and by doing so, seeing the many, many possibilities of a narrative, turned out to be a gift, because taking my sweet time taught me everything I needed to know about writing. And writing taught me everything I needed to know about creating worlds where people could be seen and heard, where their experiences could be legitimized, and where my story, read or heard by another person, inspired something in them that became a connection between us, a conversation. And isn’t that what this is all about — finding a way, at the end of the day, to not feel alone in this world, and a way to feel like we’ve changed it before we leave? Stone to hammer, man to mummy, idea to story — and all of it, remembered.”
Jacqueline Woodson
(b. February 12, 1963)

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