Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Confession Tuesday: My 2019 Poet Crush Six Pack

For several years I have selected a number of poets that are currently rocking my world. Over the years it was capped at 6 and became known as my  Poet Crush Six Pack. This year I have struggled, in that there are so many really good poets out there that are writing remarkable material and speaks to me on some level.

My familiarity with them has come from reading their work or meeting them and hearing them read in person or both. [A little secret - many of my books have been bought at readings or ordered just afterward]. It is always extra special when I discover that their poetry not only rocks, but they are great literary stewards that frequently are giving back to the greater writer community. Several of these are such stewards. So, I give you my 2019 Poet Crush List. I confess these poets are rocking my world. 

Katie Manning is the author of a poetry collection titled, The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman which I read this year and found intriguing. Her writing reminded me a bit of Magdalene by Marie Howe another awesome poet who was selected for my Crush list in the past.

 In Portland for AWP19, I met Katie and picked up a copy of another of her books, Tasty OtherThe second book was very different. This book was entertaining. It made me laugh and had just a touch of dark humor. Loved the poem Belly of the Whale, and the attempt to make Jack Nicholson look less creepy. My favorite was a series of 10 vignettes of a statue of Mother Mary on Johnson street that comes to life in various situations. I love that Mother Mary was humanized in these poems. Katie addressed experiences of pregnancy, motherhood, and parenting with humor and realism. 

On a final note, Katie is the Founder & Editor-In-Chief of Whale Road Review Additionally, she records short video reviews of other people's work, and that is so cool.  Follow Katie here.

Jennifer Moore is the author of The Veronica Maneuver, which I have read and What the Spirit Said, which is on my list buy and read soon.

I discovered Jennifer at AWP19. I have no idea if she was in attendance, but Mary Biddinger and Akron University Press were. I always, always check out Akron Press because they have consistently feature outstanding poetry. Mary made a couple of book recommendations and that's how this all happened.  

The Veronica Maneuver opens with, In the year of our Lord the Electric Chair and it was there she had my full attention. Jennifer wrote with a splash of mystery, which I loved. The poems were transformative. There was calm, there was chaos, there were Christ's face and a bullfight. It was marvelous how it all came together. I look forward with much anticipation of reading more of Jennifer's work. You can follow Jennifer here.

Melissa Studdard's I Ate The Cosmos for Breakfast has made me hungry for more of her work. She quotes Wallace Stevens, "The poet is the priest if the invisible." Studdard is that High Priestess.  Whether it is revealing the invisible to the naked eye or her copious attention to detail, to texture, and to metaphor. There is a touch of eroticism, feminine mystique, that is divine. Each time I read one of these poems I feel like I've learned something else, or else I come away with a curiosity for questions I never before entertained.

Melissa has been involved in VIDA - Women in Literary Arts. Melissa is rocking the poetry Cosmos! You can follow her here

Jericho Brown in person is one thing. Charming, 
outlandishly funny and occasionally
sarcastic. At least that has been my experience seeing him at multiple AWP conferences.    In his word, I see a much different man. Yes, there is sarcasm, but with a whole different intonation. He has championed a darker but no less real side of life. Cynical, yes, but squarely attuned to the unmistakable divide that festers in America.

Jericho's Louisiana roots never quite seem to be far away. His book, The New Testament kept me asking myself over and over sometimes uncomfortable questions. It also left me wondering how to get this book into more widely read. He has a newer book out that I have not read. but have added to my ever-growing wish list.  You can find more on Jerico here.

Anne Barnsgrover wrote in her debut book, with simply smashing imagery. "I feel like a wasps nest nailed to a door, all the stingers dried to rose thorns."  This was another Mary (knows how to pick them) Biddinger find. The book, Brazen Creature.

Loving, losing,  and all that happens in-between in these poems. Each is bold and unapologetic. Each is brazen. It could be in some ways a feminist manifesto. 

Metaphor is not lost on the revenge of the brown recluse. "Our hearts are nothing//but lies and lilac bruises. Old friend, we both want/each other dead tonight." This collection of poems was like an emotional workout. I want more of her work to read!

More on Anne Barnsgrover found here.

Martha Silano is one of what I refer to as the magical Northwest Poets. There are a number of them in the greater Seattle area that are incredible beyond what any single geographical are should be entitled to. Could it be the water?   She has five collections of published poetry. I have four of them. I've met her at AWP two or three conferences and my knowledge of her and her work go back a number of years.

In Martha's most recent book, Gravity Assist, published by Saturnalia Books,  she toys with all things relative to our orbit. The seen and unseen. Forces and things nearest to us and the way out. Jealous of that star in Orion that isn'tstare without resentment.  

The collection moves quickly and touches on Gerbils in space and wings that were not given. Of course, there is your favorite and mine, Autocorrect! Someone, I don't recall who said there was math in poetry. Yes, it's there. Oh, the things Martha orbits around in this book. She tries to outdo gravity, but the words fall to the page anyway. 

But alas, the first book I read of Martha's remains my favorite - Little House of the Immaculate Conception. That's why I keep buying her books and continue to be amazed. 

More on Martha Silano found here. 

There, you have it, my Six Pack of Poet Crushes for 2019 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Confession Tuesday - Between Two Eyes Edition

Dear Reader: 

Let's go to the confessional.  It's been one cataract eye surgery,  California burning, the smell of impeachment appears stronger, the World Series is split  3-2 in favor of Astros, Sylvia Plath would have turned 87 if she were still alive, and it has been two weeks since my last confession. 

My left eye surgery is done and I've given up a week of yoga at Doctor's request. I thought it would be longer from what other people have told me but I confess a week is still too long.  I am slated to go to Core Balance for a session tomorrow evening.  However, I will be doing the right eye on November 5th, so I will be off the mat another week then. 

I confess I don't presently see any major changes in my left eyesight. I'm just saying. 

Writing lots the past three days. I believe there are some possibilities from this rough work. I have hope.  Plath reminds me of the importance of writing daily. I confess, she still has power from the grave. 

One of the most exciting things that have happened since my last confession is that  I have made contact with a cousin on my father's side of the family.  This is significant because of the lack of Wells family members I have contact with. Grandparents are deceased. My father and uncles on his side of the family are all passed on.  So I was able to make contact with a first cousin, once removed. This is pretty cool as she has helped me with some family history questions.  I am hoping at some point to be able to write an oral history of the Wells family. I confess that I have been feeling like a dying breed. 

When I am able to restart yoga after my next eye surgery, It is my intent to do a stint of 30 consecutive days of yoga. 

Impeachment of the President is seeming like closer to reality. I don't know if the Senate can muster the guts to do the right thing, but once the case is more in the forefront of the American people, we will see if the Senators will scramble like roaches for the molding. 

I read a poem the other days that was not totally new to me, but I think after reading it I felt a newness to it. I realized it closes with a line I had heard as a quote from W.S.Merwin in the past.  The poem is titled, Berryman: 


I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war
don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity
just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice
he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally
it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop
he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England
as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry
he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention
I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't
you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write

This was shared this month by the Poetry Foundation at this site.

And last but not least, I watched Meg Eden in the Poets in Pajamas
reading series. She was reading poems from her new book coming
out from Press 53, titled Drowning in the Floating World.   The
collection of poems is themed to the nuclear power plant disaster in
Japan. I recommend checking it out. 

Until next confession, stay safe - Peace!

Michael Allyn Wells

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Confession Tuesday - Searching for Authenticity

Dear Reader:

It has been so long since I have indulged in a Confession Tuesday that I am not even going to count up the weeks, it would only inflame any anxiety that may be lurking about.

Here is what's been going on:

  • I have been trying my best to live in the present. Yoga is teaching me that now is more significant than yesterday. That tomorrow is no guarantee and the breathes we take now are where we live, the present!  This is not easy for me, because I believe history is significant to today and any future we have.  That planning is okay, even advisable. Still, our emphasis on life should be the present. That is where we are. I have been introduced to Dr. Brene' Brown who stresses living authentically - letting go of what people think of you. I will confess that I struggle with this at times.  She also is a strong believer in cultivating self-compassion. My instructors at yoga are reminding me that I tend to be hard on myself so I guess I am failing there. I've pretty much been this way about my writing over the years so I suppose this is pretty well ingrained in me by now. 
  • The things that I care about, family, friends, our pets (which are really family too), Things that sustain me and allow me to feel, to see, to touch the present - music, art, poetry  Here I seem to be on track with what Dr. Brown teaches. because she emphasizes laughter, song, dance, creativity & play. 
  • The scariest part of Dr. Brown's recommendation is embracing vulnerability.  If this is how we become authentically ourselves, then I confess it is frightening. I can handle it in small doses, but the larger the chance of feeling like I am making a fool of myself, the harder it is. 
  • Another writer friend of mine was asking me why with all the writing I have been doing, that I have no book. I've toyed with a manuscript - I've even entered one, maybe two manuscript contests. So I have gone back and looked at a lot of my poems - especially those that have been published. and I put them together struggling to see clearly a theme. Feeling that perhaps I am too close to this, I sent her a file with the collection I pulled together. We had spoken about this in advance and I already knew that she was willing to look at it. This was a big step - exposing the very vulnerabilities that have been holding me back. I confess that now, I am happy I did this. Going back over all these years of work reminded me, I got Poetry!. 
  • I have a stressor that I am struggling with that is coming to a head next week. Cataract surgery.  I confess that one of the reasons I am dreading this is the time that it will take away from me my yoga routine. Currently, it includes two formal weekly studio sessions, augmented by what I do at home.  I'm told I will need to be away from it for two to three weeks after surgery. We are doing one eye at a time so that will stretch it out. I imagine my writing will take a tole during part of this time as well. 
Today I am thinking about joy and the role it plays in the day to dryness of life.  Can I find joy in embracing my vulnerability?   Let me close by saying I am thankful for another poet who has encouraged me,  even over fear and so today  In the present, I am claiming joy!

Until next time, may you thrive daily in the present!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Assimilation of Yoga , Writing, and Life in General

I am trying to achieve some assimilation of yoga into my daily living, and into my writing. 

Yoga takes discipline for starters. This is something that would likely help across many areas of my life. 

The byproduct contributing to a calming or peaceful presence that allows for a more meditative state of being; where yesterday and tomorrow are pushed aside to make way for being in the present. That is where we can find ourselves, stripped down of the weighted anxieties that we tend to carry. 

I'm not able to say that I have my meditative practice perfect. Still, I believe that I am becoming more receptive that inner silence and where that might lead. It seems kind of like nibbling on a cracker when wine tasting. A way to clear the pallet for the next new taste.  In this way, I can be receptive to the experience of new ways of bringing fresh material to the page. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Confession Tuesday - Poem finds Home Edition

Dear Reader: 

It's Tuesday once again. A weekly occurrence and while my Confession should be weekly as well, I sometimes fail. Hey, I'm human!

On the way into the office this morning I was looking at the sky and reflected on the color variations and thought I should write something about this. But I didn't.  I'm not sure that I had anything remarkable to say about it, but I really didn't try and that is precisely what I want to talk about. 

In recent times I have thought about writing, mine at that of others. I've also thought about those who don't as a rule sit and commit ink to a page. I think sometime in the recent past (though I can't pinpoint exactly when or what caused me to think about this, it occurred to me that everyone has a story to tell. I've heard that said before but I never really thought it was meant for me. I always think when you are telling a story that you are making something up - something fictional or you are relating an actual event that you are sharing with others. I don't know why, but I never really accepted the fact that poets had stories to tell. 

I think of world travelers with unique experiences having stories to tell. Or, persons who have survived some illness or torture, or with some remarkable life discovery having a story to tell. I think it all boils down to is this a story worthy of being heard? Sometimes I think about memoirs that I have read that had very dysfunctional people in them. I think about what caused me to consider such a story worthy of being told, of being read.  I don't think we always can know what another will be interested in, but if we write, and write with a creative flair that makes what we say interesting.  Sylvia Plath used to say that everything was writable. 

What I wonder today, is what stories that are waiting to be told at our southern border? What stories need to be told? Who will step up and fill this need? I confess that I think about this and it troubles me.  [long pause for reflection here]

On another note, One of my orphan poems went out into the world this spring and has found a home. I pleased to share with you this poem that just came out yesterday in the Remington Revied - Summer Edition.  

Keep[ing It] Going

I throw another log on the fire.
I have one left that I am saving—

Alone; I keep practicing.
One day I may get it.

Tolstoy said The strongest of
all warriors are these two—
Time and Patience.

I know if you were here
you would applaud, well done!

And maybe I am better,
but you were kind
and always saw something
fly outside the picture frame.

You had the eyes—
they were plugged into your heart,
a strong heart. A sharing heart
that sometimes would pump
for both of us.

This log has been burning all night
now. It shows no sign of extinguishing

itself. My practice continues.

May you all have a safe and enjoyable week ahead.