Wolfpack Invitation and 2% Milk Update

Doug Smith, Gibbon wolf pack standing on snow. 1 March 2007. Wikimedia Commons. PD.

I was grateful and excited to receive an invitation from Editor David L O’Nan, of Fevers of the Mind, to become a monthly contributor. A wolf is central to the logo for the site, so he is calling us collectively, “Wolfpack Contributors.”

While I am flattered, at first one piece of writing a month seemed a tall order. Some months I don’t produce any suitable pieces, and much as I appreciate Editor O’Nan, I might not want to send him every suitable piece I do produce.

Fortunately, this anxiety intersected with the impossibility of unsubscribing from the undead yam’s emailing list. Occasionally, the spirit moves me to complete this tuber’s questionnaires so I can vent my spleen by ticking “No” when he asks me if I think he was a great president, etc. Towards the end, in the “other” category, I advise him to confess to his many crimes and go to prison for the good of the country.

As a result, I got on his mailing list and cannot unsubscribe. “You can’t get off it?” my husband asks incredulously. “Isn’t that illegal?”

My husband can be naive. (I had to explain to him why the Tea Baggers changed their name.) As if manipulating the “unsubscribe” option on his emailings would bother a grifting, multiply alleged serial rapist turned twice-impeached wannabe dictator whose biggest achievement in office was kidnapping children and putting them in camps, or undermining our democracy, or maybe weakening NATO and emboldening Putin, or mismanaging the pandemic–oh heck. So many achievements to choose from!

We can now add one more to the list: he has become my muse. Fresh off my can poem series, I was wondering if something similar might be in my poetic future, and I was drawn to the yam’s unique rhetorical ad style. The grandiose statements, combined with a smarmy hectoring, present rich opportunities. Suffice to say, I have plenty of material now, which I look forward to sharing.

Meanwhile, at 2% Milk . . .

Curators Nic, Lilly, and Reed have sent us the art they plan to post. I took a peek at work by musical artist Ha Vay, and I am amazed and bewildered. At my advanced age, after being a confirmed nerd my entire life, have I been asked to play with the cool kids?! Stay tuned.

Honorable Mention in The Spectator, and Other News

I was happy to read in The Spectator that I had received the equivalent of an honorable mention in Competition No. 3235, in which “you were invited to invent a prequel to a well-known work of literature and supply an extract from it.” I guess they liked my sonnet from Romeo & Rosaline, in which she puts him in the friend zone. For those of you who may not remember, Romeo meets Juliet while on the rebound from her cousin Rosaline, and only attends the party where he meets Juliet in hopes of catching a glimpse of Rosaline.

While the political views of The Spectator are considerably to the right of my own, it is nice to see my name in such a highly respected publication. Goodness knows when I will find an opportunity to publish my sonnet, but it was fun to write.

In other news, I received a revise-and-resubmit rejection from The New York Times. I will try to revise my essay, but I’m not sure I can satisfy them. Anyway, while it gets tiresome being the bridesmaid, rather than the bride, at least I have participated in two weddings in the space of a week. This was a much-needed distraction from Ukraine and other evils.


Two Poems Out in MOLLYHOUSE, and Cohen Anthology Update

I am pleased that my poems, “Koans for the Late Anthropocene” and “100% Pure,” are now out in MOLLYHOUSE, Issue 4 (pp. 38-40). Again, thanks to Editor Raymond Luczak.

I wrote about these poems here. The first koan in “Koans . . . ” imagines the consequences had Don Quixote encountered real giants (hence the photo, above). His struggle would still have been viewed as quixotic. I see this koan as evoking the view of activism in the 1980s versus now. In the 1980s, we were gaslit into thinking it was quixotic to struggle against neoliberalism because we weren’t giving this useful and productive worldview a chance. Now that its failure is spectacularly evident, we are told it is quixotic to struggle because corporations are just too big and too powerful–but no informed, sane person is contending they are not monsters anymore, so that is–something? The rest of the “koans” allude to the environmental and political consequences of neoliberalism. “100% Pure,” a can poem, is an ironic invitation to the immigrants at our southern border to enjoy all we have to offer them.

So far, I have read the first couple of poems in the issue. They contain a stimulating blend of concrete imagery and implicit social commentary. Check it out!

In Other News . . .

Before I Turn Into Gold, the anthology of poems inspired by Leonard Cohen that I wrote about in my last post, is now out in paperback and Kindle editions. You can read more about it here. Thanks again to Editor David O’Nan for including my poem.

A Bouquet in My Inbox

Tomwsulcer, Floral Bouquet. 7 July 2014. Wikimedia Commons. CC0 1.0. PD.

Today I received a veritable bouquet in my inbox. First, Litterateur, Redefining World, wrote to say my poems were in the January issue, which is good to know, but they haven’t put the January issue online yet–I will update you when that happens. Then, Editor Sara Altman, of Whimsical Poet, wrote to send the link to the digital issue of that journal with “Why the Frogs Sing” in it, and to say that a paper issue will be available soon–again, I will update about that. Finally, the indefatigable David O’Nan, of Fevers of the Mind, wrote to accept my poem, “Second COVID Spring, with Azaleas.”

This last poem, sort of a sequel to my “Pandemic Spring, with Azaleas,” turns out to be somewhat prescient. I wrote it right after I was vaccinated for COVID, when it seemed we were all going to be all right. But I was somewhat leary of such hopes–partly because I’m distrustful of easy fixes by nature, and partly because it was already clear that not everyone was doing what they should to end transmission. Not only were MAGAts being MAGAts, but wealthy countries were not sending vaccines to poorer countries because big Pharma or politically unfeasible, or whatever the “reasons” were. Also, when I had the idea for the poem while rubbing my arm in the living room after the shot, I thought of again linking the azaleas’ reaction or lack thereof to the COVID situation, and I looked out our window-wall to the bank of azaleas there.

Now last time I wrote my poem, I was looking out the bedroom window. The azaleas, of various kinds, were backwards and sideways to the window, the sun was shining, and the whole thing looked like a joyous, crazy choir, completely out of step with lockdown. The azaleas in the beds outside the living room, by contrast, are planted so that the flowers face the house, and instead of variegated bushes, they are a massive phalanx of purple. I noticed they were closer than last year (they had grown), and they were framed by a gloomy atmosphere that day. They appeared to be looking in, if not trying to get in; or, if one saw the blooms as mouths, they seemed to be silently screaming something, perhaps at me.

So I wrote a dark poem about threatening azaleas and wariness in hopeful times. It should be out soon, and I will update you then.

For those concerned about my wrist, the doctor was surprised that it seems to be healed after only four weeks. Now I should practice again.

“Kayaking on Lady Bird Lake” Accepted for Hotazel

Train bridge over Lady Bird Lake. Taken by me.

I was surprised and pleased that Editor Linda Mostert and team accepted my poem, “Kayaking on Lady Bird Lake,” for the new South African journal, Hotazel. I think this poem is one of the better ones I have written, and I am excited that it will come out in South Africa, where I have not published before.

Lady Bird Lake, much like South Africa, is a study in contrasts. On the one hand a kayaker finds themself in an urban wilderness, nesting ground for several species of water birds, not to mention turtles and the famous bat colony that makes its home seasonally in the tiny space between the surface and the concrete undergirding of one of the bridges across the lake. On the other hand, the lake has a lot of trash in it, and giant skyscrapers, including a new Google tower, rise on every side. These contrasts are oddly parallel to my experience of taking a bus outside Johannesburg to visit an elephant sanctuary, though I did not think of that at the time.

Lady Bird, too, seems to me to embody many contrasts. I have only read her Wikipedia bio, but her decade of determined work on what was then Town Lake supports some of the details I read about this apparently traditional Southern lady who famously concerned herself with the beautification of US highways. Though some might consider that preoccupation the kind of lesser field deemed appropriate for ladies before the era of feminism, Lady Bird was the first First Lady to have her own office and staff to carry out her initiatives—in other words, she transformed her position into a real job with some real power. “The Highway Beautification Act was informally known as ‘Lady Bird’s Bill’” (from her Wikipedia bio). She was also a trained journalist and a successful businesswoman who used an inheritance to help her husband run for Congress.

As for the supposition that Lady Bird’s beautification efforts were a sort of decorative hobby (a supposition I myself had entertained, I admit), the amazing urban biome she got constructed at the lake that now bears her name shows how important and serious her work was. In fact, she reminds me of my mother, who was also raised to be a Southwestern lady, but worked hard to earn her Ph.D. in art history and become a professor.

Finally, the art of the lake presents yet another evocative set of contrasts. Graffiti, often regarded as vandalism and defacement. becomes a shifting tapestry in which mostly anonymous artists put their stamp on the lake and make their voices heard. For me, the command, “BREATHE,” on the bridge depicted above, evoked the tension between the peaceful solitude I found in the kayak and the busy urban culture around it, between the natural richness and the sinister throwaway culture of our times, a culture embodied not only in the trash of the lake, but also the fate of George Floyd and so many others.

I look forward to my study of these contrasts appearing in a land of different, often troubling, contrasts, and I hope to see other, similar work in Hotazel.

People waiting for the bats to come out of the bridge. Taken by me.

“Tappan Square” and “SLOW” Out in Otherwise Engaged

Photo credit: Daderot, Tappan Square, Oberlin. Ohio, US. July 2008. Wikimedia Commons. PD.

Usually, I post when poems are accepted. But in this case, I failed to notice the acceptance amid the sea of requests for financial assistance that crowd my inbox daily. So it was a surprise when I received an email informing me that my poems, “Tappan Square” and “SLOW,” were already out in Otherwise Engaged Literary and Art Journal Volume 8. My thanks and apologies to Editor Marzia Dessi. I look forward to reading the journal.

“SLOW” is a can poem on the theme of carpe diem. I don’t think it says anything earthshakingly new, but I’m not sure anyone else has pulled comparable wisdom out of instructions for heating soup.

“Tappan Square” is about a real square at the center of the town where I grew up. If you just went to the back of the picture, a bit right of center, and made a left, it’s a five-minute walk to my old house. The square is also where I had my college graduation. I was moved to write the poem after I learned that Moses Fleetwood Walker played baseball there in 1881 before going on to become one of the first Black players to play openly as a Black man in major league baseball, before the major leagues were officially segregated.

Although I recognize that Oberlin is far from perfect in terms of diversity and equality, I still feel proud of the college’s legacy as the arguably the first college to admit Black and female students and the town’s as a station on the Underground Railroad. It was also an enriching place to grow up and attend college, and that’s really what the poem is about.

I don’t yet know how the other pieces in the journal are, but I have a pdf, and when I receive my hard copy, I will post a brief review. In the meantime, as I say to annoy those fighting the War on Christmas, Happy holidays!

“Be Well for Life” Accepted by Ubu

Photo credit: Bruce Bisping, Old Style Cash Register and Canned Goods in a Butcher Shop in New Ulm, Minnesota. October, 1974. Wikimedia Commons. PD.

I was happy to find a quick reply to a submission in my inbox today. Editor Lori A Minor not only accepted one of my can poems, “Be Well for Life,” but also said she wished she had been quicker to accept “Koans for the Late Anthropocene,” which I had to withdraw when it was accepted by Mollyhouse. Thanks for the acceptance and kind words, Editor Minor.

“Be Well for Life” will appear in ubu., a journal of brief, absurdist poems inspired by absurdism in general and Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi in particular. Like much absurdism, therefore, the poems in ubu. upset various apple carts and expectations, including social ones. “Be Well for Life” should fit right in.

I am now up to 24 can poems out of a projected set of 25. Almost all have been accepted somewhere. This one is based on the text on a can of Bumble Bee Tuna (the third tuna can I have used–not sure what that says about me). The poem is very short and tries to represent various qualities of wellbeing in a free way on the page. The last element of the can text I used, “Non-verified,” is corporate speak, which ends the poem on a twist, encouraging readers to consider what being “non-verified” is, how it might be an ingredient in wellbeing, and in what ways it (and the poem) may defy the corporate structure that produced it.

At least, that was my intention. When it comes out, I will post about it, and you will be able to judge for yourself how well it works. In the meantime, be well.

Two Poems Accepted by Mollyhouse

I was very happy to be greeted, first thing in the morning and so close to a holiday, by an acceptance of two poems to Mollyhouse. Many thanks to Editor Raymond Luczak. I am even more thankful than usual because these poems are avant-garde responses to the authoritarianism of the toxic yam’s regime, and so not welcome at just any journal.

Luckily, Mollyhouse is not just any journal, as I suspected from its name. As I learned doing research for my dissertation on Oscar Wilde, Joe Orton, and Tom Stoppard, a mollyhouse was a meeting place for gay men. (Actually, I seem to remember my sources alluding explicitly to gay brothels.) In accord with its name, Mollyhouse does not accept submissions “by white hearing able-bodied heterosexual cisgender men.”

Taking a hint from this, I included the two poems that have found favor in my submission: “Koans from the Late Anthropocene” is about the insoluble conundrums posed by authoritarian fostering of personal disempowerment, cowardice and bullying, environmental degradation, and abusive violence; and “100% Pure” is a can poem about white supremacy and the persecution of immigrants and asylum seekers at our Southern border. (That persecution was, of course, not unique to the yam’s administration, but he did greatly worsen it, most notoriously through increased separation of children and even infants from their parents.)

I’m so glad these will now have a voice in the world.

Poll Watching Poem Out Today, and a Review

Photo credit: Melissa Wilkins, “Jolley’s sporting a new Trump 2020 flag.” 2 March 2019. Wikimedia CommonsCC BY 2.0.

I am excited to see my poem, “Poll Watching: Alabama, 2020,” up at Third Estate Art‘s online journal, Quaranzine. Many thanks to the editors.

I wrote about Third Estate Art and the poem here. I will only add that my day of poll-watching was long and very depressing. I had naively hoped that the yam’s mishandling of the pandemic would turn off some of his supporters, but no. Indeed, even though the Dems won that election, the threats to our democracy are by no means over. Nor is the pandemic, and very little is being done on climate change. What is the matter with our politicians of both parties? Do they not go outside? These are rhetorical questions. I know it’s just greed and the desire for power.

But enough about my country. Let’s go to France and then do A Review:

This is really Episode 5.

“Mercy” Accepted by Mulberry Literary, and a Review

Photo credit: TAS Roy Moffit, Hermit Crab. August 2018. Wikimedia Commons. PD.

I am pleased that Editors Katie Lynn Johnston and Darcy Dillon accepted my poem, “Mercy,” for the October first edition of Mulberry Literary. I wrote the poem, which compares the speaker’s initial limited notion of mercy to the situation of a hermit crab grown too big for its house, in response to a Unitarian Universalist service about mercy. As I recall, we were supposed to do something other than write a poem, but I’ve never been great at following directions, especially if I can get some written work out of going my own way, and Unitarian Universalists never mind mild rule-breaking anyway.

My mother’s death, my constant, stressful hostility toward the quislings in my country, and my experiences with a few other individuals have all recently led me to try to overcome my defensive response to the toxic actions of others. Although I don’t believe it is possible to move on together with people who do not take responsibility for the harm they inflict, I have worked at transforming my partially suppressed rage to understanding, an openness to sympathy, and a greater sense of responsibility for my own toxic behavior.

So that’s what this poem is about. Again, thanks to the Mulberry Literary editors. I’m looking forward to the poem’s appearance and to reading some of the material already up on the site.

And now, a Review: