Books, Poems & the Circle of Life


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It’s been awhile. I know. And I’m smooshing together several types of posts here:  #2sdayPoems, Odd Bits from a Creative Life, C.A. Explains It All.  You’ll understand why towards the end.

First of all, thank goodness that the stress of the “official” holidays has passed and Mardi Gras is in full swing here in Louisiana. I’ve just had a slice of King Cake with my lunch and my neighbors have all gone off in truckloads, beer in tow, for the parade streets away.

The dog is not fond of the noise this time of year, but his real nemeses are the possums that always seem to congregate under our shed when the temperatures drop. He will brave the weather for a lick at those furballs, but he’s decided snow is better off left to the plants.

That little dusting we had back in December was toed, tasted, christened, and abandoned for a warm bed in a matter of seconds. Here he is trying to get to the space heater.  My cat, a scrappy ten-year-old “runt”, on the other hand, got into her tiny, red sweater as fast as she could and frolicked until she was almost a popsicle.

What can I say, she enjoys the outdoors, especially when she can scoop up stunned, half- frozen lizards at wholesale. This is her pissed-because-you-made-me-come-inside face.

Even arctic foxes aren’t dumb enough to brave the negative temps like some (crazy!) New Orleanians are doing for the Saints game in Minnesota this weekend. Just to be clear: I don’t care that much about football. Okay, I cared that one time when I had chump change on the Denver Broncos back in the nineties. 

I do follow the Saints some, but only because Drew Brees is literally days ( yes, days) younger than me and my twin.

I look at old man Drew and I wonder how long he can keep up the pace. I wonder what the hell he is doing to keep up the pace. I wonder where the hell I can get some of the gris-gris he’s imbibing. Seriously, that can’t all be discipline? Can it?

Anyway, suffice to say, Baby Brees and I had and are having fantastic b-days this year. Had he lived, my father would have been having a good one too. At least, I like to think so. Hard to believe it’s been three years next week since his passing. It was three days before his birthday and very unexpected.

Meanwhile in Florida, my grandfather’s (his father’s) 90th year did not start out so well. A bad fall landed him in rehab, his favorite dog passed away, and the Seminole responsible for his physical therapy was being too rough (according to him). Just when he’d finally started to like the Seminole, was having lunch with him in fact, Grandpa had a sudden, terminal heart attack, the same as my father.

His last words to me were scribbled in the Christmas card, a brief note about a $150 book on the Tlingit that he had donated to his local library. It stands to his second wife to sort out his complicated life, starting with getting his ashes into the totem pole as he requested.There will be several memorials along the pow-wow trail, with the big dinner next year. RIP Kashka. And Dad.

Odd Bits from a Creative Life/#2sdayPoems

When the news came, I had just picked up a copy of  Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views from Poetry Magazine. It opened randomly to the essay with lines from Richard Blessings’ poem “Directions on Dying. Very surreal and a little disconcerting.

Later, I was sorting through poems I’d bookmarked for the next round of #2sdayPoems.  The window with Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “Lobison Song” froze.  It’s a poem about the birth of one of her sons, who oddly enough had come into the world with the same hairy condition as my little brother. Suddenly, it was like the Lion King’s “Circle of Life” was going off in my head. Another Dali-esque feeling.

But these two poems taken together made me feel…better. Somehow.

[FYI, Aimee’s latest Oceanic is available for pre-order on Amazon.]

Eventually, the aforementioned brother, grown and not so hairy, decided my computer was suffering from failed RAM.  He got it all squared away and here I am writing about…everything.

A few more things to say about books before I close.  The audiobook of Molly’s Game was a wild ride during this time and much deeper insight into the evolution of the real woman. I’d seen the movie earlier in the month. Loved it. Jessica Chastain is phenomenal, btw, like when she channeled that weird final vulnerableness in the lawyer’s office with that carpet wobble on her (faux?) Louis Vuitton’s. The real Molly Bloom, as the book proves,  is a tough frickin’ nut, but totally addictably likable, inspiring even.

I also dug into Andy Weir’s Artemis, which is about another tough, smart woman making it in a man’s world, this time a lunar colony. Weir probed the political, social and economic cycles of such a place in a thought-provoking, yet very grounded way. 

The next book is the latest installment of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, The House of Unexpected Sisters. The main character Mma Ramotswe, is dealing with thorny family issues in Botswana, a place that is, putting it lightly, a less than friendly landscape for women in business, or women in general.

I felt very encouraged by the resiliency of the women in each of these books.  So, basically, it’s all going to work out in the end.


Birthday Cakes (#2sdayPoems)


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Poets Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib and Barbara Crooker have wildly different takes on the celebration of passing years.



by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

rarely is it a good idea to tell someone when they have appeared
in a dream that came to you during a long and hot

week. You know, the kind of week where you do not sleep
much, and instead drag your fingertip along the fluorescent

graves. The kind of week where you say how or oh,
not again. This week, the politician on television says that we are fighting

a different kind of war and I wonder if this means
the kind where everyone returns to their homes unburied, a candle

pushed into a sheet of sugar for every year they’ve missed.
I think I’m saying that a different kind of war is maybe not a war

at all, but then what here would keep us up at night.
I shake my worry for the born and unborn alike out

of a pill box and swallow it with a glass of water. And I hesitate
to say this, friends. But when I finally let go and closed my eyes…

FULL TEXT HERE (Pinwheel Journal)




by Barbara Crooker

the body, as it ages, its mystery and majesty,
the scars, the lines, the silver threads
unwinding. I no longer care about air-brushed
perfect people in glossy magazines. I want to celebrate
the real: weak ankles courtesy of afternoons
chasing a puck on a frozen pond. Thighs, more Venus
of Willendorf than Kate Moss or Twiggy. Upper arms
that wobble like jello no matter how many reps
I do at the gym. Belly that stretched big as a watermelon,
then spit out (how did that happen?) sweet pink babies.
Breasts that fed them, rivers of thin blue milk.
Yes, I’ve made the turn onto the unpaved road,
where fat yellow leaves hang overhead. Things…


FULL TEXT HERE (Whale Road Review)


Enchanting Ladies (#2sdayPoems)


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Today’s #2sdayPoems brings together selections from Maya Jewell Zeller’s  “little spells” at
Empty Mirror and Aimee Nezhukumatahil’s Hao Fenglas poem from the Green Issue of Fairytale Review. Scroll to the end for a little bonus podcast.



by Maya Jewell Zeller

sweet girl made of dust & water/ please leave
jewelry at home/ wear open, loose clothing/
this will not hurt a bit/ possibly we will ask you
to don this gown/ you are going to experience
a small dose of ionizing radiation/ you will not
feel it at all/ but possibly you will see the way…



from Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts (Entre Rios, 2017)




by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

What can the unfortunate insect do
if it is found wanting in weight?
A pill-bug rolls into a bead of silent news.
The damselfly can bend a petal

back without leaving her mark. Trickster.
There is a woman named Hao Fenglas
who cupped soil to her lips
for over seventy years. In the hem

of her blouse, in the roll of her pant leg,
she brings back a crumble of earth.
Knives stripe a feathered neck
in the kitchen for a thin broth so no one

hears her first….



forthcoming collection: Oceanic (Copper Canyon)

BONUS: Aimee Nez Live Stream replay at Copper Canyon

Week Four #readNDN #2sDayPoems


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So sad to be wrapping up this special Native American Heritage Month series of #2sDayPoems. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have, but even more importantly, I hope that you have found some NDN poets you really love. Feel free to write a guest blog post if you did!!

I love to hear from you fabulous readers. The poetry community is more fun as it grows!

Ok, enough on that tangent.  Here’s today’s poets:

Deborah Miranda (Esselen/Chumash) has written a fascinating “tribal memoir” about her own Esselen family group and California Indians in general, titled Bad Indians that I recommended in another post. She also has several collections of poetry out.  The one that I find myself returning to is Indian Cartography (Greenfield Review Press, 1998).

Stories I Tell my Daughter” is one of my favorite poems from the book. She also blogs at–you guessed it –Bad NDNS on blogspot.


Poet and critic Gloria Bird (Spokane) released a powerful collection of prose poems called The River of History (Trask House Press) in the late nineties. Today’s poem  “What We Owe” is from that work.

Another interesting read is Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writings of North of America, which she co-edited with Joy Harjo.







Week Three #readNDN #2sDayPoems


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I am so impressed by Natalie Diaz (Mojave). Not only does her poetry make me feel like I’m falling off a cliff–in a good way, of course–but her work in preserving the Mojave language gives me hope for other endangered Native tongues.

If you don’t have her first collection When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon, 2012),get it. And be anticipating the release of her second collection, also with with Copper Canyon, that she teased in this late 2015 interview at DiveDapper. You’ll find links to several of her new poems there.

But the one I wanted to share with you today is “Catching Cooper“. You won’t be the same after you read it.


Okay, if you’ve spent any time on this blog, you’ve seen this woman. Joy Harjo (Mvskoke) opened the door to Native American poetry for me and continues to be my poet-hero. Get all her books immediately, seriously, like right now.

The poem I’m sharing today is from Secrets From the Center of the World (Univ. of AZ press), which pairs her poems with the photography of Stephen Strom.

This is “Patterns in Mudhills“.

OMG! So beautiful. Check out her interview at NPR about finding her voice and her memoir Crazy Brave. Oh yeah, she reads a few poems there too.



Week Two #readNDN #2sDayPoems


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Award-winning poet and activist Allison Adelle Hedge Coke (Huron/Metis/mixed Cherokee, SE Native) writes the type of poetry that  is seared into the mind like a daguerreotype at the shortest  exposure. Fittingly, her latest collection is titled Burn (MadHat Press, 2017) and is an illustrated poetic endeavor. How cool is that?

Haven’t actually got my hands on it yet, but I hope to love it as much as Dog Road Woman (Coffee House Press, 1997), or Off-Season City Pipe (Coffee House, 2005).

Trust me, you’ll love her work. Here’s  “The Change,” straight outta Dog Road Woman, hosted at the Poetry Foundation archives.


So you’ve heard me talk about Heid E. Erdrich (Ojibwe) before.  ICYMI, I highly recommend her 2012 collection Cell Traffic (Univ. of AZ Press). The jury is still out on her latest Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum of Archaic Media (Michigan State Univ Press). It’s kinda trippy, what with its fairies, QR codes that link to film poems and other weird, but good, shit.

Before you dive into that book, try some of her more earthy work, like “Stung,” from the anthology If Bees Were Few: A Hive of Bee Poems. You’lll want Santa to bring you that one.

And while you’re out there floating in cyberspace, check out this Pen Ten interview with Heid E. and her sister, fellow writer Louise Erdrich, where the ladies answer questions (presented by Natalie Diaz) on writing in general and space for the voices of indigenous women.







Week One #readNDN #2sDayPoems


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In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the next four #2sDayPoems posts will highlight work by my favorite native writers.

I’ve been a fan of  Joan Naviyuk Kane (Inupiaq) since 2009 when her first collection The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife was released by Northshore Press. As you’ll see from the link, it’s now available in a second edition as part of the Alaska Literary Series. Anyhow, I was delighted to find (and share with you) her poemCompass,” which is read to you by the author in both English and Inupiaq.

You can hear a few more of her poems scattered throughout this interview with West Texas Talk. Her latest book Milk Black Carbon, released early this year, should be at the top of your wishlist.


Layli Long Soldier (Oglala Lakota) definitely blew me away with her debut collection Whereas (Graywolf Press).  It is currently a finalist for the National Book Award and has been reviewed and recommended by The New York Times, the LA Times and several other national publications.  And though, you may have heard her name connected to the pipeline issue at Standing Rock, she insists that she never set out to be a political poet.

That statement is in spite of the fact that the book grew out of news of the buried apology to Native Americans in the Defense Appropriations Act of 2009. Boy was that thing buried! Read this excerpt from the collection for yourself, and you’ll see that she is an extraordinary talent, who arrived on the scene just in time.

Also, be sure to check out  this interesting interview on poetry as prayer, or this one at DiveDapper for more of her encouraging words.












The Possum Posse (#2sdayPoems)


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For an urban-ish area, we sure have a lot of wildlife. Last night, there were not one, but two full-size possums making the rounds. They were no doubt a couple, perhaps already having reproduced…let’s hope under someone else’s hedge. In honor of this rather unpleasant nocturnal visit (no, they did not even bother playing dead), I present two poems from Poetry magazine with very different takes on encountering the beasts.



by Faith Shearin

He was a surprise of white: his teeth
like knives, his face a triangle
of albino dislike. I had seen him before,
on our back porch, where my father
sometimes left watermelon rinds,
and he dipped his tongue into them,
his skin glowing beneath our lights,
like some four-legged relative
of the moon. I knew him
as a citizen of the night:
a fainting, ghostly presence
with a tail so naked it was…



latest collection Orpheus, Turning(2015)



by Tom Healy

We’re talking about
when we met
and you say
it was easier
to fall for me thinking
(I’ll remember
this pause)

it was likely I’d be

dead by now.
Talking. Falling.
Thinking. Waiting . . .
Have I
what you’ve tried to do?
You say no.
You say the surprise
of still being
is something
being built—
the machine of our living,
this saltwork of luck,
stylish, safe,
comfortable and
Meanwhile, I haven’t
had the opportunity
to tell you, but…


latest collection: Animal Spirits (2009)

New&Forthcoming Poetry To Drop UR $$$ On


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Kissing Caskets by Mahogany L. Browne (coming in Nov. from YesYes Books)

sample poem:

the blk(est) night



Rain Scald by Tacey M. Atsitty (forthcoming from Univ. of New Mexico Press)

Two Poems w/ audio at Kenyon Review Online





The Fat Sonnets by Samantha Zighelboim (forthcoming from Argos Books)

Two Poems at Fanzine




Dilemnas of the Angels by David Romtvedt (available now from LSU Press)

Sample poem (at Rattle):

Dilemnas of the Angels:Intention



Iron, Ardent by Shelia Black (available now from Educe Press)

Two Poems at Wordgathering



BloodRoot by Annemarie Ní Churreáin (available now from Doire Press)

*scroll to bottom of purchase page at Doire for sample poems





Of Annunciations by Ewa Chrusciel (available now at Omnidawn)

Sample poem:

Migrants’ Annunciation


Barbie Chang by Victoria Chang (available Nov. at Copper Canyon Press)

Sample Poem:

Barbie Chang’s Tears

Everyday Miracles #2sDayPoems


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I was introduced to the work of British poet Stephanie Norgate last October when one of her poems came across the fantastic And Other Poems blog. You’ll want to subscribe to their posts if you aren’t already. Go ahead, I’ll wait a minute while you sign up. Anyway, I remember being so surprised by its ending and very moved by these very “everyday” miracles. It stuck with me for a long time and I revisited it this morning while preparing this post. I’m pairing it here with Elizabeth Bishop’s A Miracle for Breakfast for your #2sDayPoems enjoyment.



by Stephanie Norgate

In supermarkets, strapped
in a trolley,

on the motorway,
belted in the back of a car,

under the foundered houses,
open mouthed and fed by drips,

in a box drilled with holes,
in the hold of a boat,

in fish crates and on cardboard,
on pallets and straw,

on a bed of needles
on the forest…





by Elizabeth Bishop

At six o’clock we were waiting for coffee,
waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb
that was going to be served from a certain balcony
–like kings of old, or like a miracle.
It was still dark. One foot of the sun
steadied itself on a long ripple in the river.

The first ferry of the day had just crossed the river.
It was so cold we hoped that the coffee
would be very hot, seeing that the sun
was not going to warm us; and that the crumb
would be a loaf each, buttered, by a miracle.
At seven a man stepped out on the balcony.

He stood for a minute alone on the balcony
looking over our heads toward the river.
A servant handed him the makings of…