Big Changes

The MFA program I’m starting in August has prompted me to make some huge changes, not all of them very easy to make. I’ve had to resign from teaching yoga at the YMCA on Mondays and Tuesdays because I’m going to be in class at those times. This is a tough goodbye for me, because I really enjoy the community at the Y, and I get a great feeling of peace and calm from teaching the classes.

I’ve also had to back out of my work with Pindrop Press, which is headed by Jo Hemmant. Most of you who read this blog know Jo, and know what a great person she is. It has been hard letting go of these activities, but my current financial and family situation have made it necessary for me to change directions.

And sadly, I won’t be editing ouroboros review with Jo any more, although hopefully I’ll be able to help Jo out if and when she needs it. It’s a fabulous magazine, mostly because of Jo’s attention to detail and her quest for high artistic quality. I’ll still support the magazine 100%, although it will mostly be from the sidelines from here on out.

Many thanks to Jo, who has taught me a lot about editing a magazine, and who has had to put up with my changing course in the middle of the stream.

In August I’ll be teaching English Composition to freshmen, tutoring at the university writing studio, and taking three graduate classes, in addition to being a mother to my high-school son. My college-aged son is fairly self sufficient, although there always seems to be something – a car problem, laundry, money, etc… . Oh, right, I also have a husband. I guess he needs me a little.

If I had super powers I’d ask for a brain that never got sleepy, the ability to do three or four things at once, plus enough confidence to never feel angst about anything new. In the meantime I fret.

A garden ornament found in Great Barrington, MA

A garden ornament found in Great Barrington, MA

Karen Head releases second collection of 2009

Karen Head just sent word that her new book, Sassing, has just been released by Wordtech Press. This is Karen Head’s second collection this year, coming after My Paris Year (All Nations Press, 2009). She very generously shared three poems from My Paris Year in the first issue of ouroboros review.

One aspect of Karen Head’s work I admire is her ability to combine autobiographical elements with scientific or cultural topics. One of my favorite poems from My Paris Year (which I had the pleasure of hearing read by the poet), is Le Gran K, about how the official French kilo is losing mass each year. Of course, like all great poems, it’s not about what it seems at face value, but rather it’s about the importance of even the most negligible amounts of something.

I’m looking forward to hearing Karen Head read from her new collection, but readers in the UK will have the first chance, as she is traveling to England this summer. You can find her reading schedule on her blog, Karen Head: Poetic Acts in a Digital World.

John Siddique and Salt Publishing

Jo and I are very excited and honored to have John Siddique as a featured poet in the next issue of ouroboros. We will have two of his poems, an interview, and a review of his new book, Recital, which has just been released by Salt Publishing. Siddique is currently in California as a writer in residence at Cal State, and is launching his new collection at an evening reading.

Also, John Siddique is hosting this month’s poetry workshop at the Guardian. He offers a few examples of poems related to the night, and talks about his own connection to the moon and the night sky, one of the recurring images from his new book.

Since his collection is with Salt, I thought I should mention that this UK-based publishing company is going through some choppy economic waters. Jen Hamilton-Emery says in her open letter to the Salt Fan Club on facebook:

As many of you will know, Chris and I have been struggling to keep Salt moving since June last year when the economic downturn began to affect our press. Our three year funding ends this year: we’ve £4,000 due from Arts Council England in a final payment, but cannot apply through Grants for the Arts for further funding for Salt’s operations. Spring sales were down nearly 80% on the previous year, and despite April’s much improved trading, the past twelve months has left us with a budget deficit of over £55,000. It’s proving to be a very big hole and we’re having to take some drastic measures to save our business.

They are asking readers to buy just one book in an effort to keep Salt from going under. Maybe John Siddique’s Recital will intrigue you. There are also many US poets and short story writers to choose from. For example, Cherryl Floyd-Miller’s book, Exquisite Heats, is a Salt publication.

I went to the US writers and chose a book with a hairy T-Rex or an impossibly huge meerkat on the cover, called The Bible of Lost Pets, by Jamey Dunham, a collection of surreal prose poems. Yay! I can’t wait to read it. I’m a sucker for surreal prose poems and ambiguous animals on book covers. I’ve also got a soft place in my heart for independent book publishers. We who love the arts have to support creative ventures. Otherwise we’re left with what they sell at Wal-Mart and Target.

News about poet Michelle McGrane

For those of you not yet acquainted with the talented and lovely poet Michelle McGrane, there’s an interview with her on the blog 100 Readers, by Fiona Robyn.

Fiona’s new novel, The Blue Handbag, is due to be released in August of this year. On her blog she’s interviewing those who have read advanced copies of the book, which will be available on Amazon.

Many of you know that Pindrop Press has the honor of publishing Michelle’s next collection. Her book, The Suitable Girl, and will be Pindrop’s inaugural title. Michelle is also the featured poet in the second issue of ouroboros review, and has three poems included in our upcoming issue.

Michelle McGrane’s poems are a blend of sensuality, imagination,myth, and gritty reality. Spellbinding is an adjective that comes to my mind. She is more than an avid reader, and it shows in her poems, which are eclectic and reflect her wide-ranging interests. Michelle is a perfect example of someone who has read 100 books before she writes her own, and I respect her for it. It shows in her poems.

Poetry news

  • Jo and I are beginning a new reading period for the third issue of ouroboros review, ending Sunday, May 3, and due to be released in July. We’ll take a break for the summer, and then resume reading in the fall for a winter issue.
  • It’s a happy day – Deb Scott and I have a poem up at qarrtsiluni for their Mutating the Signature series, edited by Dana and Nathan, who now have a blog together with the same name as this current edition of qarrtsiluni. Thanks to Dave Bonta, Dana, and Nathan for making it happen.
  • Jill, Carolee and I have written thirty prompts for the month of April, which has been dubbed National Poetry Writing Month on the web. It’s also National Poetry Month in the United States. As if we needed a month to celebrate poetry! You can go to Read Write Poem every day next month to find a new idea to inspire your writing. Because of a conversation we had with Michelle McGrane, we have dubbed ourselves The Madwomen who Stand Outside the Supermarket Passing out Poems to People. We we also be in your pockets the day you need to carry around a poem in your pocket. So look out.
  • Poet Robert Lee Brewer, who runs a poetry blog for Writer’s Digest called Poetic Asides, has announced a poetry marathon for the month of April. He’ll be posting a prompt a day, and will choose his top favorite poems posted on his site for each day. And there’s more. He and a group of distinguished judges, including Marky Doty, Collin Kelley, Nick Flynn, Shaindel Beers, and Dorianne Laux, will choose the top fifty poems from these entries to be included in an e-chap anthology. April is going to be a frenzy of poems.

ouroboros review issue 2 is released

The second issue is now online and in our bookstore, ready for your reading pleasure.

Atlanta Moon,  cover art by Meg Pearlstein

Atlanta Moon, cover art by Meg Pearlstein

Here’s a brief sample of what’s inside:

  • Michelle McGrane, featured poet interview and three poems.
  • Collin Kelley interviews Vanessa Daou.
  • Music, art, and poems from Amy Pence and Hunter Ewen.
  • Deb Scott, Carolee Sherwood, Jill Crammond Wickhams’s poems (grouped here because of our mutual friendship and our affiliation with Read Write Poem.

And of course there’s so much more. We’ve been working around the clock – when I go to sleep at 11:00 Atlanta time, Jo is waking up a few hours later in London and gets to work. But today, issue 2 will be put to bed. Time for a cup of tea or a glass of wine and an hour to read ouroboros review.

Clara's Second Youth

“What’s in that head of yours?”
he says as she sits alone on a bench.
A lifetime ago Jake would cup
Clara’s chin in his hand,
lean in to brush his lips against her cheek,
whisper, “you’re my own feline girl.”
In Jake’s parents’ house one night
she told him, “I don’t like suspenders
on a young man anymore,
or the way you smoke a pipe
and listen to Big Band music.”
“What’ll I tell Mom and Pop?” he wailed.

Today she forgets she had eggs for breakfast,
buckles her bra on top of her dress.
She’s twenty-one, walking to the square
with Jake, arms wrapped around
each other’s waists, sitting with him
on this sunny bench, where Jake
cups her chin in his hand.


I wrote this poem as an exercise for an online writing workshop I took a few months ago. The instructor asked us to find a photo, to write to it, and then to begin and end the poem with the same line or thought. It’s called ‘the envelope effect.’ I found a photo of an elderly couple sitting together on a park bench, holding hands.

She also said to write couplets. I did all of that, but then I went back and re-arranged, did away with the couplets, etc… . The poem isn’t about anyone I know, it’s all made up. I don’t have Alzheimer’s, I don’t think, nor does anyone in my family, though of course, like everyone, I know people who have family members with the disease.

I didn’t write to the read write poem prompts this week, even though I was inspired to. I’ve been busy with magazine layout for ouroboros, teaching yoga, taking my son to the rock climbing gym, applying to graduate school (for another degree? probably not….), and taking a stab now and then at cleaning my house.

I’ve also been writing stories, which are still untyped in my notebook. Michelle McGrane’s interview with Padrika Tarrant inspired me. Go have a look, it’s a brilliant conversation between two talented writers.

While you’re at it, read Jo Hemmant’s poem at blossombones. You’ll hear the wind howling off the moors.

*Update: since a few people have commented that this poem doesn’t resemble Alzheimer’s, I want to clarify that the poem is about regrets, lost love, confusion, memory loss, and the happiness some people find in the illusions they create. The poem is a blending of several people and events, all of which I’ve experienced or observed, but it is not about a single individual, nor is it scientific or realistic on a factual level.

Here’s the poem again, in couplets. Thanks, Collin!

Clara’s Second Youth

“What’s in that head of yours?” he says
as she sits alone on a nursing home bench.

A lifetime ago Jake would cup
Clara’s chin in his hand,

lean in to brush his lips against her cheek,
whisper, “you’re my own feline girl.”

But in his parents’ house one night
she told him, “I don’t like suspenders

on young men anymore,
or the way you smoke a pipe

and listen to Big Band music.”
“What’ll I tell Mom and Pop?” he wailed.

Today she forgets she had eggs for breakfast,
buckles her bra on top of her dress.

She’s twenty-one, walking to the square
with Jake, arms wrapped around each other’s waists,

sitting with him on this warm bench
where he cups her chin in his hand.

looking for poems and art

Jo and I are revving up for a new reading period for ouroboros. We are thrilled with the success of the first issue – over 2,500 readers to date, and hope for continued interest in the project. Head over to our submissions page to read the particulars of when, where, and how to send us your poems and artwork.

spiral by grzesiek

spiral by grzesiek

The lovely and talented Dana Guthrie Martin has published a poem I wrote for her project, Shore Tags. The website, a blending of science, literature, and art, publishes poems and and articles that touch on the plight of hermit crabs and how they are having a tough time finding new shells to live in as they grow bigger.

There are so many social and spiritual parallels between humans and the other animals that inhabit the planet with us, but the little hermit crab is an especially endearing creature that has elicited some wonderful poems by children and adults alike. Dana has gathered all kinds of ideas involving shells, poems, photographs, links, and lesson plans for teachers.

Of course, Shore Tags is only one of Dana’s many projects. The latest one involves poetry, Seattle, and brothels. I’m not sure, but feather boas might be a part of this too.


Within the tradition of yogic meditation there is the concept of sankalpa. At the beginning of an extended period of meditation, known as Yoga Nidra, or sleep of the yogis, the practitioner visualizes, feels, intuits, or silently states a certain aspect of life he or she wants to see manifested. The translation of sankalpa (from Sanskrit) is the English word intention. The idea is that if we internalize our positive intentions while in a state of deep relaxation, we will be more likely to act on those intentions in our daily thoughts and actions.

An intention is different from a resolution in that there is no way to fail or not meet one’s expectations. Each day we work on creating the life we want to live, rather than waiting for New Year’s Day. If we choose a particular sankalpa, we keep it in our minds until we see the results we have been visualizing. But it’s always possible to change because of intervening events in our lives.

It’s interesting how events unfold. Last year I kept saying to myself, “I have a published collection of poems.” I said it to myself before falling asleep at night, and I repeated the affirmation at the beginning of my Yoga Nidra meditation, visualizing a book spinning around in space with the word Poems embossed in silver on the cover.

And in 2008 I did publish a collection of poems, although it wasn’t made of poems I wrote. Jo Hemmant and I produced ouroboros review, which is most definitely a book of poems. Our intentions don’t always come about the way we originally dream of them, but it’s important to look back and see the results of our thoughts and actions, and to recognize the power of the imagination. It’s also a good idea to be very specific when trying to get a message across to the unconscious mind!

My sankalpa now is to write strong poems that move others, and to share them in print, on the web, and in person, through readings and workshops. I say it in the present tense, as if it were already true.