“A Christmas Story “by Robert Cording

This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month.  Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.

A Christmas Story
by Robert Cording

Sure, I’d had too much wine and not enough
of the Advent hope that candles are lit for;
and I’ll confess up front, I was without charity
for our guest who, glassed in behind those black,
small, rectangular frames, reminded me
of those poems that coldly arrange a puzzle
of non-sequiturs to prove again how language
is defective and life leads to nothing more
than dead-ends. So, after a night of wondering
if our never-more-than-hardly-surprised guest,
a young professor whose field of expertise
seemed to be ironic distance, would give
a moment’s thought, as he took apart everyone’s
unexamined stances, to how and why his own
might be constructed, I blurted out a story
over our Christmas dinner dessert, about
Alexander Wat, how the Polish poet,
taken one day from his Soviet prison
to see a local magistrate, stood in the sun,
reveling in its warmth on his face and arms
and hands; as he took in the beauty
of a woman in a light green dress, he knew
he would soon be back in his prison cell.
He never forgot, he said, the irony of
his freedom, and yet he felt, standing there,
something like a revelation, the autumn day
surging in those silly puffiest white clouds,
and a hardly bearable blue sky, and the bell
of a bicycle ringing, and some people
laughing in a nearby café, and that woman,
her bare languid shoulders turning in the sun—
it was all thrilling, achingly alive, a feast
happening right there on the street between
the prison and a government office, nothing else
mattering, not even the moment he knew
was coming, and arrived, right on schedule,
when he stood woodenly before the magistrate.
And when I had finished, my face flushed,
my guest looked at me with astonishment,
unable to process where so much emotion
had come from, and then asked, calmly as ever,
what I meant when I’d used the word, revelation.

“A Christmas Story” is from Only So Far (CavanKerry Press, 2015).


rcording_hsRobert Cording teaches English and creative writing at College of the Holy Cross where he is Professor of English and Barrett Professor of Creative Writing. He has published seven collections of poems: Life-list (Ohio State University Press/Journal award, 1987); What Binds Us To This World (Copper Beech Press, 1991); Heavy Grace (Alice James, 1996); Against Consolation (CavanKerry, 2002); CommonLife (CavanKerry, 2006); Walking With Ruskin (CavanKerry, 2010); and A Word in My Mouth: Selected Spiritual Poems (Wipf and Stock, 2013).


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“Breathing Under Water” and “Standing” by Catherine Doty

This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month.  Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.

Breathing Under Water

Florida’s just a thumb on a jigsaw puzzle,
but under water the Weeki Watchee Mermaids
pour their tea, cook, exercise, iron clothes, guzzle
with muscular skill their Grapette soda
with only occasional surreptitious sucks
on an air hose hidden in shell-studded scenery.
They grin, open eyes afloat in their blue-lit skulls.
Holding my breath was a skill I practiced, too,
like when I was ten years old and woke to a body
lowering onto my body, and a breath that put me in mind
of a rotten leg, a thing I’d seen in a book once
and which scared me, but not as much as this body
on top of my body, these jabbing fingers. I was wildly aware
that the room I was in was a pigsty, and I was a pig to be sleeping
in my clothes, and I wanted to blame it on someone, which
would have meant speaking, which I could not do—
it would have been too real—and I was too old to blame anyone
anyway. I closed my eyes to make the black world
blacker. The lamp was within my reach, and a railroad spike
I could easily have lifted, and also a bowling ball I’d found
on the tracks, but all I could think of was being ashamed
and dirty, and grateful the whole thing was happening
in black and white, like those mermaids on TV, their lips
and nails a black I knew was red, their long white legs
safely fused in their glistening tails.

Standing, 1964

See her small clothes drop in the blooming weeds—
t-shirt and shorts in the upraised arms of the yarrow.
Her arms are upraised, too—she exults or prays—
she’s narrow and flat, she’s white as Queen Anne’s Lace.
The thatchy back of her head is a patch of knots,
her teeth are rotted, but, then, so are theirs, bared
as the boys reach to touch her, not unkindly.
They are sixteen and she is half their age. Above them
a star goes dark, or many darken—the maple completes
the ring at its very heart. She feels like the pinecone seed
that split the boulder, the bullet exploding the head
of the president: once invisible, once inconsequential,
now singular, at last in her rightful place.

Catherine Doty

Catherine Doty is the author of a book of poems, Momentum (CavanKerry Press), and a collection of cartoons, Just Kidding (Avocet Press). Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, among them Garrison Keillor’s More Good Poems for Hard Times and Billy Collins’ 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day. She is the recipient of a Marjorie J. Wilson Award, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Ms. Doty has worked as a visiting artist for the Frost Place, the New York Public Library, and other organizations.

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Nin Andrews interviews Joan Cusack Handler


is such a powerful and heart-breaking memoir. I thought maybe I’d start the interview by asking for an excerpt from “No Day Was Brighter:” on page 39, beginning on page 39: “I’ve spent my life trying to explain/my mother . . . and ending with “God stealing her mother in every /face and gesture for the rest of her days.”

                         I’ve spent my life trying to explain
                     my mother; she lived in two countries
                love and loss_ her mother
            the center of both.

                                  Left alone (a child of 6 again)
                   on the threshold of her mother’s room
                watching as death and
          God took her mother away.
                                    How does a child
                               confront that oppressor?                                                                                                        
                                                        She finds
        God stealing her mother in every 
  face and gesture for the rest of her days.

You were named after your grandmother who died in childbirth when your own mother was six. And you resembled your grandmother. How does one pronounce Siobhan, the Irish name for Joan? Did you feel as if somehow you were her mother? I’m thinking of these lines:

I’m named for my mother’s
mother. Siobhan translated
is Joan. Perhaps
that explains what goes on
between me and my mother.

Siobhan is pronounced Sha Vaughn (as Joan tells us in Confessions,it rhymes with fawn.
I felt like her mother in the sense that I felt responsible to make her happy and responsible for her sadness. As a child and as an adult. The lines refer to my feeling that she put all her hopes in me— I was her mother’s replacement so she was particularly possessive of me. With that as a background, our relationship was very complicated.

When I was reading Orphans, I was so swept up in your telling—it was as if your words were waves washing over me. And in the early section of the book, you wrote about a beach vacation. Did you start writing this when you were in Aruba? How did the book begin?

The book began with the mother poems –the ones in my voice. My husband and I are great fans of cruises—particularly transatlantic ones. In the presence of the ocean or sea, I often feel inspired. If I’m not writing, I’m reading and vice versa. “Orphan at Sea”– the Aruba poem was written on a Caribbean cruise and is one of the oldest in the book.

I tend to write in clusters of poems. And in both cases, I wrote a great deal when my parents were close to the ends of their lives.

When my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, my friend Karen Chase, suggested that I record her voice and my father’s. I did that. Though unsure of how I would use those conversations, I knew I wanted to write about my parents. At some point. What better way than to let them tell their own stories. My assistant, Donna Rutkowski, transcribed those conversations and I edited them as prose. When the book was 90% finished, another friend, Carol Snyder, commented that someday she’d love to hear my parents’ voices in poems. Needless to say, I couldn’t ignore what I thought was a brilliant idea, so I decided to try. The result are the Mother and Father Speaks sections. That process was amazing. I elaborate on it further down.

This book seems completely open, as if you are bearing your soul to the world. While writing it, did you ever feel a need to withhold a family story or not talk about a sibling?

I do feel the pull to withhold family or sibling stories and in fact I sometimes do. The decision is based on whose poem it is. Though I reveal a great deal, I also hold back a lot about my family (believe it or not!) in all of my books, and only reveal the stories that are fundamentally mine.  When it came to writing this book, I knew it would not be published until after both of my parents had died.

There is so much pain in the book, first the pain of being beaten and manipulated by your mother, and second, the pain of feeling responsible for your father’s fall when he was an old man, and third, the general pain and grief after your parents’ deaths and with the recognition of your own mortality. You keep asking yourself, why, as in the poem, “Questions”:

did I coach you to “Trust yourself,
you can do it?” And why did I
go back to sleep that morning?

And in the poem, “What’s Gone,” you write of both what’s gone and what is left, and both are guilt. You begin the poem with a list of nots:

What’s Gone

Is guilt:

Not placing him first
No visiting more often
Not making soup
Not stopping by on my way to East Hampton
Not joining him for a walk
Not being good enough
Not going to mass
Not believing . . .

Would it be fair to say you are very hard on yourself? Was it difficult to write these poems?

Yes, one could say that I’m hard on myself. And yes, it was difficult to write many of the poems. But I was/am committed to the truth. I’m not interested in distortion particularly in the service of the ego. Pain is a real part of life and relationships and I believe that most people recognize that. It’s natural for a person to question themselves, their motives and behaviors when a loved one dies. Hopefully, we’re assessing these throughout our lives. The good and the bad. That’s one of the reasons I’m so attracted to the Jewish Yom Kippur; a day a year dedicated to facing one’s life and taking stock is worthy work indeed. The speaker in this book is flawed and to tell her story honestly, I had to reveal those flaws.

I kept calling this book Orpheus instead of Orphans because it read like a trip to Hades and then back again. The difference, of course, is that the singer was not lost in the end.


You end the book with the poem with the image of water, and a nod at your childhood home in Edgewater, so the book comes full circle. I wonder if you could post the lovely last stanza here and maybe say a few words about that poem.


                                                      I’ll need
                   someone to cover me, find a thick down
          blanket to warm my thin and flaking bones.
                    Don’t forget a pen and my notebook no
                  use for them. In their place,
               unfinished poems, family photos, CDs of David’s music,
                                 a book of Chekhov’s stories
                  my wedding ring, on my finger please.

           And, if possible, the sound of water (if not at its edge).

The poem has gone through a considerable transformation; it was once much longer, more optimistic and separate from the rest of the book as a Coda. As I lived with that Coda for a good while, and shared it with friends and editors, I came to see it as out of sync with the rest of the book. I created this lovely scene at my graveside with my son and daughter –in-law and our wonderful Cassidy Vaughn, their 5 month old daughter; it was Christmas and we were drinking mimosas and eating ice cream; they were showing me their presents and chattering away. It was an idyllic. And a lovely fantasy. But it was not real. I was pushing myself too far into acceptance of my death than I was at the time. I removed the Coda and wrote this poem –which told the truth of where I was emotionally. There are days now when this ending continues to hold true and others when I regress to more of the terror expressed in the poems that precede it. Fortunately, as time passes, I regress less often.

Orphans_coverNIN ANDREWS

How long did it take you to write Orphans?

About 7-8 years.

Was it more challenging to write this book than others?

Yes, in that I was dealing with three voices and I was committed to presenting both of my parents in as authentic a way as I could. Finding the form for each of the 3 voices was very challenging and great fun. When I set out to transform the prose into poems, I automatically went to my typical form that uses the whole page as canvas and draws/follows the emotional energy down the page, but my parents’ voices would not speak in my form. They needed their own. I tried several others but was unsuccessful, until I tried simple couplets which gracefully fit my mother’s voice, and I found my father (whose refused to speak in couplets!), spoke most naturally in irregular stanzas of free verse (introduced by a first line separated from the rest of the poem with a space). It was the most amazing learning experience to watch the words insisting on their own form.

How has your life as a therapist informed your writing?

I’ve always been fascinated by peoples’ stories and I’ve heard many in my 35+ years practicing. And I’m committed to helping patients face and eventually accept theirs. Without recrimination. That part is the hardest and takes the longest.

Many of us have spent countless years ashamed of who we are. The goal of therapy is to become one’s own good mother. That’s not possible until we forgive ourselves our humanity. It’s the bedrock of therapy—learning to accept and love ourselves with all of our imperfections. Having spent over 30 years in my own therapy tackling just that, I’ve come to a place where I’m no longer ashamed of who I am. That has freed me to write openly. I no longer demand perfection from myself. There’s incredible relief in that. So it was actually therapy–my own and the practice of it– that brought me to writing. And freed me to write the poems I want to write.

Along the way, I discovered Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Wild Geese” which I return to often; it’s the permission that all of us need daily in our quest to accept ourselves, forgive and honor ourselves…

You do not have to be good
You do not have to crawl on your belly…

What did you inherit from your parents? Do you attribute your life as a writer to either of them?

Actually, I credit both of them for my writing. Living my life drenched in the music of their voices and their accents certainly nourished my love of poetry and the love of language. I also credit them for my sense of humor and commitment to family.

I credit my father for my spirituality and acceptance of others. And for my commitment to community and ‘loving my neighbor as myself’. And my love of nature and silence.

I credit my mother with my love of home, my quest for education, my ambition and for the importance of ‘keeping something in my own name’; for my interest in fashion, Law and Order Special Victims and Criminal Minds.

I also credit her for teaching me how to carry my height with pride.

Are there any books or memoirists that serve as role models for you?

Chekhov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. Raymond Carver, Steinbeck, Hemingway. All were brilliant psychologists; they knew what it was to be human. I remember being stunned by Chekhov’s liberal use of the word ‘hate’ as in he hated her (or she him).  I thought it was too strong an emotion to ever feel toward someone you love. But the more I study that question, the more I’m convinced that he’s right—we humans have within us the potential for the full range of feeling from love through hate. Sometimes with the same person.

So I return to these men periodically. I read them almost exclusively while I was writing Orphans. When one writes in another’s voice, the translation has to be impeccable. I wanted to be fully respectful of my parents. So I gravitate/d toward the masters to study how each created character. Sometimes, I’m honing my skills or looking for some new insight or permission. I’m seldom conscious of doing this, but on observation, I’m convinced I do.

Then there are the poets who so brilliantly illuminate emotion. Start with Whitman, add Brooks, Clifton, Peacock, Gluck (Ararat), Carson, Legaspi….among so many others.

I’d love to hear you talk about how you balance your life as a psychologist, editor and writer.

That’s become more graceful. My life has always been busy with my multiple interests and careers, but I’ve slowed down considerably and look forward to slowing down more. I’m almost retired from my psychotherapy practice. My editing responsibilities are heaviest during our open submissions period (because Teresa, Baron and I read every manuscript); the rest of my editing responsibilities like editing our LaurelBooks selections are spread out over the year as is writing I do for the press—the blog/newsletter etc. My own writing makes its way to the top of the heap when it’s necessary. Unlike so many writers that have an even routine of writing daily, I write when a line, or a poem, or a memory pulls me to my notebook. The pacing of the project becomes that much greater as I move toward a book. At that point, writing is all.

Fortunately, I have my husband and son to remind me when that happens so I can remember that I have many loves in my life. And all deserve attention.

What do you love most about writing?

The discovery in the poem. I love surprising myself. That said, nothing competes with that magical experience when the poem takes over and I am the medium. It reminds me of a quote of Hayden Carruth. “Why ask what’s the use of poetry?/ Poetry is what uses us.”

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“Ibiza” by Harriet Levin

This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month.  Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.

by Harriet Levin

I wish I could bumble and buzz
transfer honey to the tongue
of the stranger gyrating his hips,
his drink in his hand,
and lick off the salt rim
encrusting his tongue stud

with the unsullied swagger
of honeybee daggers in captivity
for three thousand miles
when their crate doors swing open
on almond blossoms.

When I sashay up, he recognizes me
as if after 18 years, an event more momentous
than the honeybee release, because at that moment
someone bumps my elbow
and my drink spills and his drink spills
and as he reaches over
to help assemble
the ghostly broken vessels

his knuckles brush the crotch on my too tight jeans
I’d like to hurriedly remove.
Is it just the clinging material
or my soul cleaving
or the solely material
weave of airways
collapsing the dark caves
beneath my eyes?

My fingers let go
stinging with ardor
as if into the bower
of each open flower.

Ibiza” first appeared in Connotation Press.


Harriet Levin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to first-generation Eastern European Jewish immigrants. She received her BA in English and Russian at Temple University and her MFA from the University of Iowa, where she also translated works for writers in the International Writing Program.

She is the author of two books of poetry: Girl in Cap and Gown (Mammoth Books, 2010), which was a National Poetry Series finalist, and The Christmas Show (Beacon Press, 1997), which was chosen by Eavan Boland for the Barnard New Women Poets Prize. She is also co-editor of Creativity and Writing Pedagogy: Linking Creative Writers, Researchers and Teachers (Equinox Books, 2014). How Fast Can You Run, a novel based on the life of Lost Boy of Sudan Michael Majok Kuch, (Harvard Square Editions) is forthcoming October 28, 2016.

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News and Events: Week of April 25th


Richard Newman, Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia Street, NY, NY)
Thursday, April 28th, 6-7:30pm
Launch reading for the anthology Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women

Sandra Castillo, Kendale Lakes Library (15205 SW 88th St, Miami, FL)
Saturday, April 30th, 2pm
Sandra will be reading from Eating Moors and Christians


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“Letter from Limbo” by Jeanne Marie Beaumont

This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month.  Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.

Letter from Limbo
by Jeanne Marie Beaumont

If it proves possible, could you please send replacement
Victrola needles (tungsten), an atlas of your world (recent),
and a box of tailor’s chalk? Also, bishops for chess sets
(light and dark); they disappear at an alarming rate.
And, if it’s not imposing too much, some small
thing salvaged from the sea, even a piece of shell
or driftwood, that retains a scent of salt and scales.
Don’t think me monstrous for mentioning it, but
might you enclose a so-called rabbit’s foot?—
not for luck of course, that issue’s long moot—
it’s just that I so miss something soft at hand to pet.
I wouldn’t inconvenience you for all of heaven’s grails;
any item that’s too much bother above, I beg you forget.

From the forthcoming Letters from Limbo (Cavan Kerry Press, 2016). Originally published in New Letters.

8bbedc_5e64bee5e4eb4eb78ee346d8a64501afJeanne Marie Beaumont grew up in the Philadelphia area and moved to New York City in 1983. She holds an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and is the author of four books of poetry. Her first, Placebo Effects, was selected by William Matthews as a winner in the National Poetry Series and published by W.W. Norton in 1997. This was followed by Curious Conduct, published by BOA Editions, Ltd. in 2004, and Burning of the Three Fires, published by BOA in 2010. Her fourth book, Letters from Limbo, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press in fall 2016. With Claudia Carlson, she co-edited the anthology The Poets’ Grimm: Twentieth Century Poems from Grimm Fairy Tales (Story Line Press, 2003).

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“Fantaisie” by Donald Platt

This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month.  Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.

by Donald Platt

                           Each person is
a solar system, the bits of birth’s Big Bang orbiting
                           some sun that both attracts

and repels.  Elliptically, my mother orbits her own death,
                           that great shining
ball of fire I cannot look directly at.  She draws closer to it,

                           then pulls away.  She rotates
as she revolves.  Together we write her obituary.  Born.
                           Schooled.  Worked as.

Married to.  Gave birth.  Resided.  Retired.  Is survived by.
                           The old story
we all get to write if we’re lucky, or one that will willy-nilly

                           get written for us.
I leave the day she’ll die blank.  She gives me the notes
                           she wrote last night:

“Funeral in Christ Church and Bill Eakins to preach.
                           Ask Women’s Guild
to serve a simple refreshment.  Give $100 to organist.

                           Give $5,000
to church.  Give $500 to Bill Eakins.  Give $1,000 to women.
                           Give $250

to soloist.  No calling hours.  Only the church service.
getting up and saying nice things about me.  Everyone

                           has their own
memories—good, bad, and indifferent.  Chief purpose
                           of a funeral

is to pray for the departed.  Also to give comfort
                           to those who grieve.
Call Hickey Funeral Home.”  As an after-thought, she added

                           “Ask Charlene
to play Saint-Saëns’ Fantaisie for violin and harp.
                           You’ll need to find

a harpist.”  Everyone needs a harpist to accompany her living
                           and her dying.
No one to turn to but the seated, marble harp player

                           at the Metropolitan Museum
of Art, early Cycladic, eleven and a half inches high.
                           He embraces

the D-shaped instrument, whose top is ornamented
                           with the head
of a waterfowl.  Against his right thigh and stone shoulder, he rests

                           the weight
of the instrument.  It has no strings.  His raised right thumb plucks
                           five thousand years of silence.

“Fantaisie” was originally published in the New Ohio Review, Spring 2016.


Donald Platt has published four previous books of poetry, Dirt Angels, My Father Says Grace, Cloud Atlas, and Fresh Peaches, Fireworks, & Guns.  He has been awarded two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and three Pushcart Prizes. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, New Republic, Poetry, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Southwest Review, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, and Southern Review, as well as in three editions of The Best American Poetry. He teaches in the MFA program at Purdue University.


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“Abloom & Awry” by Tina Kelley

This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month.  Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.

Abloom & Awry
by Tina Kelley

God lurks in the story of stethoscope,
kaleidoscope, microscope, but also in the punched
ache of falling apart: accidents, insanities, plot twists
surpassing human imagination. God’s the sparrow
in the convention center, the skateboard akimbo
on the freeway shoulder, the perfect paw
reaching out of the long-flat roadkill, and somehow
the father shooting his two daughters, third wife
and self, leaving the baby son safe asleep.
God is all those lost, up in the God world
being nothing, stuck between the notes.

I worship the grape molding in the bunch’s depths,
our neighbors’ ruttings and fights our baby monitor
picks up, the metastasis of laughter, cauterization
of grief, that maroon bog-shininess of ancient remains,
the magnificat of dew on lady’s mantel leaf, the cousin
born with fetus in fetu, her twin parasitizing her ovary,
the first caveman to huck a rock at his chum’s skull,
the walk Joe took, alone, to spread his arm’s ashes,
the cruelty young boys show to turtles, the suicidality
of child molesters, even pustard, that liquid dripping
from the bottle when all you really want is mustard.

I worship weird domestic ways to die,
electrocution by lovesong falling in bathtub,
infant decapitation by ceiling fan, while I praise
ways to create, painting with menstrual blood
on cave walls, zen sand art by kitty in litter,
painted toddler feet tromping on the ceiling.

I worship every reason I cried this year,
slow songs, missing Dad, children refusing
to come downstairs for their special pancakes,
adoptive mother heartbroken at a son’s sins,
also every new song I loved this year, but

most of all, if I may see, the many years to come.


“Abloom & Awry” is the title poem of her third collection, which CavanKerry is printing next year.  It previously won the New Jersey Poets Prize from the Journal of New Jersey Poets in 2014.

author photo kelleyTina Kelley’s t
hird poetry collection, Abloom & Awry, is coming out next spring from CavanKerry Press. She also wrote Precise and The Gospel of Galore, which won the Washington State Book Award, and co-authored Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope. She was a reporter at The New York Times for a decade.

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Our ADA Advisory Board: Why does poetry matter?

In honor of National Poetry Month we asked our ADA Advisory board:

Why does poetry matter to you?


Here are their answers.

Poetry, important poetry, places us where we belong while so much lugs us into worlds that eat away at everything we cherish.
-Jack Ridl

I have always wanted to be a rockstar, mostly so that women could be assisted in finding me attractive.  As it is, there are just these few lines I can write some days and your fingers now strumming these next few words into electric sound.  I rise up each morning so that I might strike fire, shake the ground and sit back down to sigh a grateful thank you.  Even this was nice, don’t you think?  This poem right here.
-Randy Smit

Poetry was probably the writing form that I found most intimidating while growing up. It is only now, in my “dotage,” that I have begun to appreciate its power. In a sense, I view it as sculpting with words. I love the way that poetry – at least that which I can understand – cuts to the heart of the matter with beauty and economy.
-Jacqueline Guttman

Reading poetry connects me to a literary tradition dating back to troubadours singing ballads. Writing poetry helps me discover what I need to know.
-Joan Sidney

For a time when I was child I believed that if someone gently placed a dry hand flat on my forearm, then whatever I was feeling—peace or turmoil—would pass through from my skin into that person’s palm, a relayed touch of recognition. This innocent notion probably evolved from how my mother pressed her hand on my  forehead when I was ill and registered, with certainty, fever or well being.

Once after a fall, but showing no visible signs of injury, I pulled my older brother’s hand to my arm. “It hurts!” I cried. “Feel it! Feel how it hurts!” He wrinkled his face and frowned. “It doesn’t work that way.”

However, not long after that, I discovered poetry and found that yes, it does work that way. Poetry is the hand that when placed on the skin of another, knows.

-Karyn Lie-Nielsen

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Two poems from Shira Dentz

This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month.  Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.

Palm trees blowing, feathers

evening’s husk, palm
         trees black.
can see
      evening’s husk
  but light
of after.
lolling light
          of after. my sister, my sister, my
    my sis

bird black

birds, pockets of air.

breeze sloping cotton. birds sloping calm. breeze alone percussive. alone more cotton. clouds lawn the luminous noon. field shadow.

a tittering, quite pretty

outside, rushing interior. luminous green cover, percussive. it’s the rushing feels beautiful

luminous distance, green time like clouds of solitude, the well interior. the air. calm. percussive. birds that’s air.,

clouds, being of the past, tittering


Both poems were previously published in 32 Poems


Shira Dentz is the author of three full-length books, black seeds on a white dish (Shearsman), door of thin skins (CavanKerry), and how do i net thee (forthcoming) and two chapbooks, Leaf Weather (Shearsman), and Flounders (Essay Press, released this month).

Her writing has appeared widely in journals including The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review,  New American Writing, Lana Turner, jubilat, and Western Humanities Review, and featured at The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, NPR, OmniVerse, Poetry Daily, and Verse Daily. My awards include an Academy of American Poets’ Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Lyric Poem and Cecil Hemley Memorial Awards, Electronic Poetry Review’s Discovery Award, and Painted Bride Quarterly’s Poetry Prize. Her poem-video, “Saidst,” is featured this month (April) at PoetrySeen.  A graduate of the Iowa Writers‘ Workshop,she has a doctorate in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Utah. Shira was Drunken Boat‘s Reviews Editor from 2011-2016, and curates DB blog’s feature, “What I’m Reading Now…,” as well as reviews for Tarpaulin Sky. She teaches creative writing at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. More about my writing can be found at shiradentz.com.
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