Saturday, February 08, 2020

The Order of Species and Poets

One morning this week (the exact day escapes me) I walked out to my car to leave for work and there were 4 of these creatures across the road grazing. They of course stopped and gave the look that says, Why are you all up in our business? There was also a woodpecker nearby pounding on a tree. This area is loaded with various critters. More often than not, they are blended into the surroundings.  For example, both in the evening, and even early morning hours there is a whoo-hoo  whoo-hoo.  This has been going on for a couple of months and I'd love to get my eyes on the Owl, but it hasn't happened yet.

As it started getting colder I started putting out suet for the birds. They are evidently quite pleased as I have to had to replace the suet every week and a half to two weeks. It's not in the best place for me to keep a casual eye on it without my interest being compromised. I may have to move it, if I am going to get any pictures or even good observation with. the naked eye.

If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.  - Rainer Maria Rilke

Nature has a poet's patience about it. Or, at least the presence poets should ascribe to. I try, really I do, but dammit  I really want to see that owl. 

I think man's relationship with nature has been long out of tilt. We have relied so much on it, too much I believe, and now the realization that we have unknowingly for years been withdrawing  too much from the natural bank account of this planet earth. Our very survival demands we are better stewards of our planet. Our ultimate strength is rooted like the trees in the dark of earthen soil. We must be co-habitants with nature. 

I drive onto the highway and head downtown. The skyline like a prism reflecting the sunlight rising in the east. Glass panels, concrete, metal girders, reflective spires all twinkling ahead. Yes, man's marvels. But, somewhere there is a strip mine. Somewhere, countless acres of forest have fallen in the name of progress. Paved streets and parking lots.

Gone are the Reunion Ibis, the the Black-Backed Bittern, Reunion Night-Heron and a slew of other bird species. In the past half-century there has been a 29% decline in birds in the U.S. and Candida. Once we lose birds, insects and other animals are impacted. So too is plant life. Some of this is not doubt related to climate change and migration disruption. 

Poets could do a whole anthology of elegies to birds who are no longer with us. 

Patiently, I await the sight of the owl that serenades me morning and night.   

Wednesday, January 01, 2020


“Remove ‘shoulds’ from your vocabulary this year. Start your journey of self-love now.” —Kelly Martin

2019 and the whole decade that it represents is finished. What is left is smoldering memories. Some of them are good but most represent average or worse elements of my life. 

Mid-day today I attended a workshop at Core Balance Yoga that was nearly mat to mat in the studio. There were 23 of us and the instructor and we might have scrunched one more yogi in a cover but that would be it. There was a glitch in the software that allowed more than the limit to sign up on line. It happened so it must have meant to be. We made it work. 

The session was a 90 minute combination of yoga, guided meditation and journaling exercises designed to lead each of us to what would become a personal guiding word for 2020. The logic was that we can easily shed a resolution by screwing up and then feeling we have failed move on leaving it behind.

Out of my session, there were a series of words that flowed out of my journaling and meditation and the more meaningful ones came down to fulfillment, focus, vision, and authentic.  I have not as of this moment centered in on one word. Kristin, our instructor said some people actually use a couple or three words to carry with them throughout the year. I would like to minimize this as much as possible. 

Even prior to today's event, I have been thinking about the symbolic nature of 2020 and perfect vision. Working through dreams and hopes, I've been pointed to manuscript completion. Challenges to improve / perfect yoga practice. Achieve publication from a list of tougher reputation Journals or Reviews.

I already know that I have improve my own self worth, be guided by gratitude, and embody love of self and others. The past couple of years, truth has come to mean anything and nothing. In 2020, truth has to mean more to me. It has to reflect in me the embodiment of authenticity.  Being real, honest and genuine. 

So, I don't really have a resolution of sorts, but I see developing a roadmap or blueprint of something akin to a guiding light. I'm ready for a year that glows with joy, peace, art, fulfillment, and support of others. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

2020 A Year of Perfect Vision

As a poet I know said upon learning I got a Mac Book, "Michael, you've come to the dark side." Said poet has for years been singing her praise/love for her Mac Book. I finally decided to find out what I've been missing.

The learning curve has not been so bad up to this point. I've not pulled any hair out of my head as of yet. 

It's silver in color but I have and orange shell case for it  (It's a SF Giants thing) and I love how thin and light weight it is. Right now I am downloading word to it. I was not that impressed with Pages and I don't much care for having to convert to doc file which of course I need for writing.

The year is fleeting  like the air from a ballon with a pinhole. I like the thought of taking the Mac Book into the new year. Over the weekend I was thinking about the coming year. All the projects that I want to do, to start or the ones I need to push to the finish line. I realized that 2020 needs to stand for perfect vision. What I want, what I need to do, requires me to see 2020. This is a year in which my vision needs to lead me. The irony of having just come off of cataract surgery this fall was perhaps what brought 2020 into my mind as being a year for perfect vision. This time next year I hope to have a lot proof to show for the combination of vision and work.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Confession Tuesday - Dark Pillows - Impeachment - Yoga - and Poetry drafts.

Dear Friend: 
It is again that time. Fess up time.  The time to take account of the good the bad and the ugly.  Won't you follow me to the confessional? 

It has been five straight days of yoga, a gazillion eye drops, more impeachment hearings than I can recall the number - maybe 5?  And it has been 1 week since my last confession. 

Tonight as I left work downtown the sky was buffeted with dark pillows. It was a sight most surreal. 

I wanted to just stand and look at it but I had not been feeling well all day, was already leaving late and I the desire to get home won out. 

It's my 5th straight day of yoga tonight,  even as I don't feel well.  It's the coughy - runny stuff. I confess that I would like to stay home tomorrow but we will see how I am in the morning. I have started some Clairton - D so maybe that will help. The coughing has brought on chest pain. 

I was telling someone the other day that it did not know if yoga was making me a better writer, but it sure was making me a less stressed writer.  I am hoping that over time that will translate into better writing. I confess that hope is a good thing. 

This past week I have been spotty as far as writing. No, I confess I have not written daily. This is the ugly truth. I say that because I know all too well how important it is to do so. I do have a new draft that I will need to work on more, so this has not been a total loss of a week. 

My cataract surgery is, of course, all history now. Still pushing the eyedrops as I have been instructed to do. My eyes will still need some correction adjustment but they will take a look next month to see what my vision is like. My vision is brighter. I suspect I will still be wearing glasses but they will be different from what I am wearing presently.  I have noticed that I have not been squinting so much on the computer at work. 

I am looking forward to a Mala making class this weekend.  I also got out my manuscript draft tonight and left it on my desk to start toying with this week so I guess I have some things to look forward to. 

Until next time - be safe and live poetically!

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!