#2sDayPoems :Purple Gorillas& Purses


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Photo by Tim Moore


by Matthew Dickman

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what’s left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside,
and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again.
I am not afraid. She has been here before
and now I can recognize her gait
as she approaches the house.
Some nights, when I know she’s coming,

I unlock the door, lie down on my back,
and count her steps
from the street to the porch.
Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,
tells me to write down…


latest collection: Wonderland (Norton)




by Ruth Fainlight

My mother’s old leather handbag,
crowded with letters she carried
all through the war. The smell
of my mother’s handbag: mints
and liptsick and Coty powder.
The look of those letters, softened…



latest collection: New & Collected Poems (Bloodaxe)

Remembering Nora Dauenhauer on Foremother Friday


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Those who follow my twitter feed, already know that Nora Dauenhauer, one of our Tlingit culture-bearers, a wonderful poet and sweet person, passed away this Monday. I’m re-reading and re-reading her collection Life Woven With Song as I work on my own Fish Psalms. Haa Shuká, Our Ancestors: Tlingit Oral Narratives,which she co-edited with her husband, is also poured over frequently. Click on her name above for more publications and her long list of awards and achievements.  I won’t go on too much here.  Her work (below) will speak for itself:


More poems:

Grandmother Eliza

The Storm

How to Make Good Baked Salmon From the River


#2sdayPoems (2×2) featuring Natalie Young


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Natalie Young is my kind of poet, art director by day, wordsmith by night, a leftie, a mixed blood, a fan of Tom Selleck, purple pototoes and Oscar the Grouch. She also happens to be the founding editor of Sugar House Review, a poetry gem. And although I question her taste for green olives and swiss cheese, I find her poems always absolutely delectable.

On more of a down-note, as the terrible fly-over footage of Puerto Rico’s devastation from Hurricane Maria rolls on, I keep thinking about her monster poems from one of the 2015(?) issues of Rock And Sling. Yes, they are about the personified Great Salt Lake, but the lonely orphan “island” felt like PR.

Anyway, I can only give you one of the monster poems (from her own website), but I’m throwing in three more on other “alien” subjects from their various online homes.


The monster has lasted centuries

            with little light, in one place.

This lake once spanned hundreds of monsters,

           millions of gallons to roam.

Now he has a small city, a village

           deep enough to safely travel. He doesn’t mind much,

but wonders about humans and sun.

What will be done when the many things collected

           are uncovered? Bones and rings and rocks.

What was lost. Cast off.

           The trash of time. He and his house release

only what breathes oxygen or is…

FULL TEXT HERE (you may have to scroll)


notes on earth life

A child in a pink coat leaves her music lesson. Her cheeks match her coat. Her father sells
insurance based on how long an equation expects a person to stay alive.

The old man died. Sometimes humans just die. And you cannot save them.
Sometimes humans do not die, and you cannot save them.

There is a television program about a real human family doing normal earth things—there are
many programs with real people doing what people always do. Humans stop doing what they do
to watch.

When humans determine an animal is too ill, they…

FULL TEXT HERE (w/audio)

the mums are always dying

We’re gonna do it easy, but then we’re gonna do the finish rough.
—Tina Turner’s intro to “Proud Mary”

Holding out a bundle of mums
from the grocery store
to offset a bad day,

She tells the alien how hard it is
to remember everything, every day to do
every thing, how proud she feels

to have shopped and gathered
so much, saved
dollars with coupons and…

FULL TEXT HERE (w/audio)


bird of war

Today let’s talk about the bird who wages his own war.
He flutters shades of late summer: cloudless sky, cornfields,
early-morning sun, asphalt.

He clangs his black beak against his cage in rapid fire, hurls
steel bowl to ground, a landmine of fruity pellets. His head full
of mischief juts to the hum of vacuum erasing siege.

Tomorrow he will…


Odd Bits of a Creative Life (9/13)


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BOOKS, Books, books

I was happy to discover Matthew Zapruder’s Why Poetry at my local library, and have spent several happy weeks with it. The chronicle of how he evolved as a poet was interesting, but mostly I appreciated how he was able to articulate so much of what I’ve been thinking about poetry, but didn’t quite know how communicate.  Wow, that sounds very self-centered, but maybe it is. It is what it is. Here are a few of my favorite passages from the book:

There really was no such thing as ‘poetic language.’ The words in poems are for the most part the same as those we find everywhere else. The energy of poetry comes primarily from the reanimation and reactivation of the language that we recognize and know.”  (p.9)

“I began to discover why poems look the way they do on the page…A poem, literally, makes a space to move through. To read a poem is to move through that constructed space of ideas and thinking…As we think along, we start to make connections, and have experiences and feelings we might not have otherwise had without the poem.” (p.57)

“One of the greatest pleasures of reading poetry is to feel words mean what they usually do in every day life, and also start to move into a more charged, activated, even symbolic realm.” (p. 164)

“In a poem, language remains itself yet is also made to feel different, even sacred, like a spell. How this happens is the mystery of each poem, and maybe its deepest meaning.” (p. 166)

That last quote really made me think of Terrance Hayes’ collection Wind In a Box, and more specifically the poem “The Blue Seuss”.  You can find text and audio here. But also please buy the book. It’s one of my favorites.

More than once, he mentions Brenda Hillman’s Death Tractates, (as does Hass–not surprisingly– in A Little Book on Form).  I remember reading some sort of mini-review from him about this book several years ago, and wanted to pick it up then.  [Here’s the 2014 Rumpus “Last Book of Poems I Loved” article if you’re interested]. I know I had it in my Amazon cart at some point, but somehow didn’t get to the actual purchase.  Remedying that soon.

I tackled Hass’ Form book alongside the Zapruder one.  They make a fantastic  pair. First of all, Hass’ “little book” is not ‘little’ in any sense, not in length and not in intellectual weight. It is less textbooky than say  An Exaltation of Forms (which incidentally I was introduced to by a youtube video featuring Terrance Hayes.)

Hass’ book has wonderful sections on sonnets and odes, but the last few chapters–“Collage, Abstraction, Oulipo and Procedural Poetics”; “Mixed Forms”:  and “Prose Poem” were worth the price of the book.  Before I die, I will have to audit at least one of his Berkeley classes.

When I go, I will also crash Lyn Hejinian’s “Slow Seeing/Slow Reading (English 190) class, which Lit Hub teased recently in their “Classes 25 Famous Writers Teach” piece.

Via that post, I also found out that Vievee Francis, one of my poetry heroes, teaches “Engaging in Hybridity: Race, Gender, Genre” at Dartmouth.  I am at this very moment scooping up much of her reading list, especially Kwame Dawes’ Duppy Conqueror,  which how have I not read that already?

Also, I am hoping the ARC gods at Copper Canyon, will bestow a copy of Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s upcoming Oceania on me before I lose my mind waiting. Maybe if I send a muster of peacocks up to the author at Ole Miss, she will help smooth the way.


This year, I am scheduling a few readings and really appreciated Robin Houghton’s timely post on Tackling Poetry Readings.

In other news, I applied for a Native Arts& Cultures grant. They were super helpful in the application process. Receiving the grant would help me launch a better funded #readNDN campaign, revive this blog and allow me to finish a WIP collection of poems that I’m calling Fish Psalms.


Why psalms?

Psalms as a form have always intrigued me. The Hebrew ones are essentially lyric poems set to music, in other words, a type of song language. The Tlingit word for ‘poetry’ is roughly translated “song language” (at shí yoo xh’atángi). Additionally, the Tlingit (other Native Americans, the Irish and Acadians) have much in common with the Hebrew people, down to the complicated clan system, a tight focus on landscape common to the displaced, and a reliance on the larger community in times of trial. These groups are all deeply spiritual, each in their own way, and are all groups that inform my work by heritage or adoption.

I am also drawn to psalms for another reason. Poet Alicia Ostriker put it best when she stated that “the emotions of Psalms surge and collapse like breaking waves”. I want FISH PSALMS to tap the full range of human emotion and to mimick natural cycles of water, evening to morning, creation to death, etc., as the Hebrew ones do.

By the end of the week, I hope to finish a short story that is on the surface about a lost dog, but underneath about the ever-present class struggles in the Deep South. I am 2 scenes away from being done. Currently calling it “Denny Albers’ Dog.


Besides taking new photos for the blog, twitter and the grant application (see a few below),

I tried to translate the success of my oil pastel portraits to acrylics by trying out sheets of 10x 12 canvas paper and reinterpreting photos from the historic New Orleans collection.  This seems to be the right mix of materials and subjects. FINALLY.



Cranberries& Rugs (#2sdayPoems)


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There is the slightest chill in the air today, and already I am thinking of cranberries, sweaters and fire-side rugs. Here are two colder-weather poems by Molly Peacock & Jill Osier with bonus audio files.


by Molly Peacock

The best thing about a hand-made pattern
is the flaw.
Sooner or later in a hand-loomed rug,
among the squares and flattened triangles,
a little red nub might soar above a blue field,
or a purple cross might sneak in between
the neat ochre teeth of the border.
The flaw we live by, the wrong color floss,
now wreathes among the uniform strands…

FULL TEXT HERE (audio file at top-center of that page)

from The Second Blush (W.W.Norton,2008)



by Jill Osier

Today I find lowbush cranberries edging the yard. Full ripe,
they lie secret as gems among broken twigs and leaves blown down.
I pick two generous handfuls. There may be more. You told me
the story of Jupiter once. How when Voyager passed by one of its moons,
it recorded something like ten volcanic eruptions. Scientists reasoned
that if at random they found ten, the place must be breaking all the time.
They looked closer, and they were right. It is later and I’m home and I stand….


audio here
latest collection: Should Our Undoing Come Down Upon Us White

Of Time &Its Fruits: Reflections on Kelly Cherry’s TEMPORIUM: FICTIONS


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Kelly Cherry is a prolific writer, one who defies categorization and has so highly tuned her craft that her work manages to exist in perfect beauty wherever it lands, and especially– in this case–the twilight zone of hybrid prose. Her latest collection Temporium: Fictions (Press 53) shines in such a place. Not-quite prose poetry, mini-essays or fiction, Cherry describes “the book as a museum… curat[ed], harbor[ed] or displaying…bits and pieces– moments of time…arranged… more or less chronologically”.

Cleverly stitching together the previously published with new work, she delights us with characters as diverse as first century martyrs, assorted colonists, Einstein, Kafka, a literally vanishing office worker, a Ming Dynasty feminist, undead communists, aliens, and various incarnations of God. We peer in on them at all points along the cosmic ripple from pre-Big Bang darkness to post-Apocalypse reset, and we are at every junction, thoroughly entertained.

At times, I felt like the octopus from one of her six-word stories who is divested of his arm, only to be gifted two legs. The whole experience was fascinating, scary-pleasant and rocket-propelled. Like a magic trick, like a clever sleight of hand, Cherry brought out personal and universal cosmic truth without all of the inflated, academic language. Did I mention I love basically everything she writes?

I am obsessed with “Derek,” an over-loved bat and the woman who just can’t bring herself to let go of him. I am haunted by “Thomas Leigh” and a future where the last humans leave the space ark only to find themselves absorbed into the collective conscientiousness of an indigenous ‘alien’ race.

Ever the professor, the real cherry on top might be the mini-lecture/short “How to Write a Story,” a piece that manages to boil down all human conflict to the fraught interaction of one man and woman.

From any perspective, this book, maybe more so than her others, proves that Cherry is not limited by anything as mundane as region or genre or time. In one fell swoop, she unites continents, makes us believe in 3D printed souls, transcendent love, and life after the universe eats its tail like a snake.

This is a definite must-read. Scoop it up!

ICYMI: My chapbook interview is up at SPEAKING OF MARVELS


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If you follow me on twitter, you’ve already seen this, but for those who are email subscribers, you might have missed my chapbook interview over on William Woolfitt‘s fantabulous Speaking of Marvels blog. Check it out!