Monday, December 29, 2014

A Sea Full

Image of the Day:  The cold Earth steady and still beneath my feet.

I've been on a cruise ship for the past week.  I walked up a waterfall with fast streaming water flowing downward, holding the hands of complete strangers helping me not fall onto slippery rocks.
I've seen goats running around the Jamaica green jungle.  A very controlled and well-trained dolphin kissed me on the cheek and let me kiss it.  A very thick-lipped and sunburnt-skinned Australian captain let me jump into a sea full of large wild sting-rays while a woman screamed.  They streamed through the water like huge, black capes, their width the length of me.  I did not stay long in that water, even though it was gorgeous tourmalined in color.  My skin got so burned there were little raised bumps all over my chest.  The ocean was a constant motion, small waves combining with themselves to form bigger waves that rolled and rolled.  Small nearly see-through flying fish rode above the waves far longer than I thought possible.  And at 2:30 in the  morning, the ship would cavitate and my whole body felt like it was threaded through some giant hook, streaming underneath the water.  It was nice to go away and it is nice to be back. 

I have a poem here in the whimsical Arsenic Lobster Poetry Review.  I'm sharing poetry space with some of my favorite poets, all incredibly talented, such as D.M. Aderibigbe, Karen J Weyant, Jill Khoury and others. 

I finished reading State of Wonder which was quite fitting for a cruise.  Lots of surprises.  Today I'm just blah, doing loads of laundry and wandering aimlessly around the house. 

Siberian Spring

      Tomsk, Siberia

A moment for a painting: crisp, clean
snow sparking over hill and hollow,
barest green halo hovering above branches.
Taiga: the word smells fresh, unstained.
Gone are the long nights—woman, bottle, knife,
each good company in her own way—
swept clear by green noise.

Up front the driver tightens a wire in the engine.
Satisfying, these small victories:
the engine's rev, the road's drag,
the marking of another spring—
as if it were an easy thing.
As if any of it were easy.
Just ask the river ice, keening now
over the carcass of her rank,
disemboweled self.

Katherine E. Young

Friday, December 12, 2014

Such a Jolt

Image of the Day:  The slow and graceful deer shaking their big ears at my dog, barking at them behind the back door.

So this blog is kind of a weird thing for me.  Yesterday, for reasons I can't figure out, this blog had 112 hits or pageviews.  I have no idea why, unless my namesake in fiction, the other Carol Berg, had some news and people were confused.  I had visitors from China, France, the Ukraine, Brazil and South Korea stop by.  Normally, I get like maybe 7-12 visitors unless I'm writing about someone else's poetry, like Amorak Huey, and then I might get 60 or so.  Which is nice, since this blog is all about promoting poetry and writing in general, but still.  So, anyway, just wanted to say thanks for stopping by! (And hey, feel free to buy a book or two of mine while you're here.  They make great presents!  And if mine don't work for you, visit the presses and browse around.  You're sure to find something for someone!)

And I'm officially on break from my other job for about a month, which is nice.  But my boss has retired and yesterday was our last day working together which made me enormously sad.  I love my boss and try and learn as much from her as I can.  I know not a lot of people can say that which is why I also love my job.  And it's so hard to have someone that has been in your life for almost 15 years suddenly not be in your life so much.  Or hardly at all.  I know people come in and out of our lives all the time and it can be such a jolt.  It's been also very emotional for me and now I think I'm sick.  With a cold. Or just a huge emotional hangover.  Last night I was in bed by eight reading my book, State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett.  It's a good read so far.

So here's a beautiful poem from the gorgeous DMQ Review that you should read from beginning poem to last poem.  Nothing like an ode to a punctuation mark to get you rolling. 


Not lips but the opening of lips, the kiss that fits
    a mouth, moistens a tongue with a lungful
of mimosa. Two dots offer aromas of oleander,
    pine, sweet plum. They numb the funk of the manuscript
locked in a trunk. Two dots open to mercy
    in Minneapolis or the middle of Muscatine,
two eyes watching swaths of brush tumble
    in the wind. After a colon, you can wake up as a reptile
or a gilt chandelier in France or ants in a manse
    passing on the left carrying crumbs from the kitchen
while the pastor pens a sermon on olive blossoms
    then fingers his earring. Not a period, a colon
is an open church: Muslims, Jews, dragonflies
    dampened by fog. The rivers of day and night return
in currents of fish. They swim through two dots
    to open the floodgates of silence and sound:
for the mist frozen in its moment, for the green
    alone in its moss, for the bee buzzing above
the pond scum, for the baby laughing
    in her bassinet while the ground shakes.
John Davis
Copyright © 2014  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Into and Out Of

Image of the Day:  Chickadees winging into and out of the dogwood tree and the orange leaves stirring.

I am reading The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity by Louise DeSalvo and can't recommend it enough.  I have been, well, had been, feeling very negative about my writing and my writing processes, forgetting that my schedule changes and so my writing time needs to change too.  I actually wrote out a writing schedule--something I had never done before but my days didn't require that.  Or at least I didn't think so. But as she writes, "One of my jobs as a writer is to learn what my rhythms are" (12).  I think I'm still learning that.

You know, I have lots of prompt books and have read Writing Down the Bones before and figured I knew enough about the process of writing.  But this reminded me of some things I knew but also taught me new stuff.  Even though this is mostly geared toward memoir writing I have found some really great ideas in here. 

And I am doing another write a poem every day in November.  Oh and I have finally gotten some acceptances and to some places I love. 

To One Dead
by Maxwell Bodenheim

I walked upon a hill
And the wind, made solemnly drunk with your presence,
Reeled against me.
I stooped to question a flower,
And you floated between my fingers and the petals,
Tying them together.
I severed a leaf from its tree
And a water-drop in the green flagon
Cupped a hunted bit of your smile.
All things about me were steeped in your remembrance
And shivering as they tried to tell me of it.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Digging Into

Image of the Day:  The grey tufted tit-mouse digging into the gutters of my house.

Halloween is over and so is the reading at Back Pages Books Thursday night.  I was the first one to read which is always enjoyable but also nerve-wracking.  I was nervous and I think it showed a bit.  But I did get some good reactions from the audience so that was nice.  Then I got to sit back, relax, and enjoy the other writers.  Linda K. Wertheimer read from her interesting book on religious education in public schools. Linda's young son was the true star of the whole show, I should mention. 

Then the poet Stephen Tapscott read from an amazing long poem about Eadweard Muybridge who photographed horses to see if all their feet came off the ground at the same time while galloping.  I was surprised, embarrassed, and very pleased when Stephen quoted a line from one of my poems in his introduction to his poetry. I wish I had had the guts to stay longer afterwards and said thank you and hi to him, but my need to flee after reading in public (and feeling in general overwhelmed) took over.  (If you happen to read this post, Stephen, I'd just like to say how pleased I was that you read that poem in Tinderbox!)

Anna V.Q. Ross read her poetry which I knew was going to be fabulous and heart-wrenching because I had heard her read at Grub Street a long time ago.  I did manage to catch her at the end to say a quick hi.  She read an amazing poem about being shot at while walking with her child in a stroller.

Steven Edwards was the last writer to read and his story was the kind of story I absolutely love and need to find more of: witty, erudite, and funny.  It had elements of past history combined with the conundrum of how humans live and interact amongst each other simultaneously with love and loathing. 

I urge you to find these writers' work and read them. 

Cloud No Bigger than a Man's Hand

It approaches from the sea, too small
for thunder and lightning
but ominous as a closed fist
and what it will bring

nearing us, growing larger,
is completely unknown.
Beware the leaves blowing, beware
the spot on the sun.

All is turned toward it. It rides
the brow of the mind.
Soon, it will shadow one cliff
and a small lifeguard stand.

Beware the leaves blowing, beware
the spot on the sun.
Do your work well. Behold
the work yet to be done.

Dick Allen

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Closely Connected

Image of the Day:  The Nashua River in its deep Fall green skin. 

What I'm reading:  Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves, by James Nestor.  "Human blood has a chemical composition startlingly similar to seawater" and "...we're more closely connected to the ocean than most people would suspect" (6).

What I want to write:  poems with the following titles:  River Restless, River Running High, River in November's Death Light.

What I am writing: 

What I have been doing:  running alongside the river.

What I ate yesterday:  salad with grilled shrimp that tasted like dirt.  Not in a good way, either.

What I have this morning:  stomach ache.

What poem I am reading \ what poem you should be reading:

Dear Empire,

These are your jellyfish. They are the artist's obsession. The way their
forms are taken by tides. Pulled towards the shore or towards some
unknowing place. Our beaches are cursed by thousands of these little

Yet she fills her canvases with their clear and brilliant orbs. Occasional
tendrils seem to slide off the edge. Their little hidden fires. Their little
underneath parts papering the dark.

To have a mind as hers. To have an eye that understands the little
shocks beneath. To consider that these ghosts have such an edge. Such
a sting.

Oliver de la Paz

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Invitation to a Reading

Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) is honored to present fellows and finalists from MCC's Artist Fellowship Program in the 2014 Commonwealth Reading Series. All events in the statewide series are free and open to the public.

Thursday, October 30, 2014, 7 PM
Back Pages Books, 289 Moody Street, Waltham MA

Featuring award-winning writers and poets:
Carol Berg
Steven Edwards
Anna V.Q. Ross
Stephen Tapscott
Linda K. Wertheimer...

Learn more:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Its Own Universe

Image of the Day:  The red and yellow outline of Fall being drawn in the trees' leaves.

Happy Fall!  And time to get  your flu shots--ugh.  I got the stomach bug and have had it for the last one million days, it feels like.  At times, I would feel better, eat or do something I shouldn't, and then feel awful.  I hope that it is going away, but it sure eats up a lot of time and energy. 

And speaking of belly-aches, I have a poem here in the latest issue of Tinderbox Poetry Journal.  It is a wonderful journal so poke around and read the other poems.

Emily Dickinson has a wonderful poem about pain:

Pain—has an Element of Blank—
It cannot recollect
When it begun—or if there were
A time when it was not—

It has no Future—but itself—
Its Infinite Contain
Its Past—enlightened to perceive
New Periods—of Pain.

That whole notion of pain being its own universe is so apt. 

Anyway...other poets who are writing things you should be reading:
Diane Lockward has a thought-provoking blog post about the wasting of time here.
Susan Rich has some excellent advise about choosing poems for a residency here.
Sarah J. Sloat has the most exquisite poems here in the archives of the always lovely DMQ Review as well as the latest Tinderbox Review so be sure to read them all.

So that should keep you busy for awhile.   Be well!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Amorak Huey’s Ars Poetica...

Amorak Huey’s Ars Poetica Disguised as a Love Poem Disguised as a Commemoration of the 166th Anniversary of the Rescue of the Donner Party


Amorak Huey’s poem in the first issue of TahomaLiterary Review is a masterful example of how to create a poem that creates an echo of itself in the mind. I think I recently read somewhere that poems teach us how to read poetry and this poem does an extraordinary job of teaching us how to read and to read variously. The poem also teaches us about the multiplicity of ourselves. 


The poem, in the form of couplets, begins with a declarative sentence that feels axiomatic:  “This is life:  a series of difficult choices ending in death.”  Here we have no persona yet, no character involved in an action.  The second line creates a plea but still in command form:  “Along the way, try not to judge too harshly.”  The command form continues into the next stanza and with the title in mind, the reader starts to pause and reread the lines washed through the various disguises from the title.  Each line then is creating three separate accounts of itself.  “Share what you have, but not all of it.” 


So far, each sentence has had no line breaks and no figurative language.  What is remarkable, however, is that each sentence takes on the weight and scope of the three possibilities created in the title:  the experience of making a poem, of making love, and of making the choices of each individual in the Donner party.  The second line of the second stanza reads, “Also, avoid shortcuts during winter months, or late fall” and this axiomatic language continues, this how-to language that could seem trite but for that title.   The sentence continues into the third stanza: “lest your own late fall yield a new way of tasting the world—“ and here we have an utterly devastating line encompassing beauty, ugliness, and brute survival as each layer creates a different flavor in the mouth of the reader. 


The second line of the third stanza continues the previous thought: “limb and root, outcome and inspiration—“ and here we the sensuous details of limb and root with the word “limb” creating various images in our minds: the limb of a tree, the limb of a lover, the limb of a dead body in the snow.  Limb also carrying the word  and work of being in limbo at this point in the poem. 


The fourth stanza:  “the height of the stumps reveals the depth of the snow” again that logical language full of various possibilities of disquieting interpretation.  The second line, “as the brightness now is equal to the blindness later.” How our changing perception through time and experience blots out the intensity of the moment.  I love how the echoing b sounds in brightness and blindness creates an intimacy between the words.  The sentence continues into the fifth stanza: “as today will be rewritten tomorrow.”  Such poignancy when experienced through the title.  How memory works on us and we work on it to create a narrative that is never true to the situation as it occurred, in creating a poem, in creating a lover, in creating and recreating the monster inside us as we made/make the choice to eat or not.  Huey ends that stanza with the line, “Its why we must keep moving.”  And here we have the use of the word “we” for the first time and our involvement in all these possible actions deepens. 


The poems shifts perspective in the sixth stanza or gains a perspective.  We become placed, grounded with the simple first word of the line, “Somewhere.”  Here is the entire stanza:


Somewhere in the middle distance, an ocean

rises like a great column of light,


I wondered why the choice of the word “middle” here, in the middle of the line.  I think this is important for perspective, sort of a groping around for familiarity or security.  And also, I like how the m sound echoes the m sounds in the previous line of the words must and moving.  And of course you have the echo of the word “muddle” included in the word.  In this stanza we have so many visual images as well that adds to the grounding of ourselves, of where we actually are.  The light is different here as well, did you notice?  The blue bright light of the ocean versus the white blinding of the snow earlier in the poem. Color now, albeit subtle and unspoken, but here. 


The seventh stanza:


beckons like the salt and sweat of a first kiss.

This is why we carry on so.  Knowing hunger


I just have to pause here and revel in how that line breaks after those two works, “knowing hunger.”  That is an impeccable line break and teaches us what a line break can do, with such simple language.  We all know hunger of various kinds and coupled with that sweaty and salty first kiss from the line above, we discover what the metaphoric possibilities of those kisses might be: the kiss of a successful poem, the first kiss of the lover, and the first kiss of a body entering ours we never thought to taste.  How that line break makes us linger for a second and feel the hunger after that kiss.  Isn’t there always a hunger after a kiss?


The poem takes a turn in the eighth stanza.  Having known hunger “is but the first test.  Like this. Only faster.”  How can this be?  What this is Huey creating?  This moment.  We are all involved here in this moment, sharing it but it moves and the poem spins.  Notice that all the words here are single syllabic words, simple words moving us forward and quickening the action.  How single moments can spin us dizzy us. 


The poem continues: 


The season turns.  The wind’s slow sway


the frostbite and flame, the infection creeping—

I thought myself too tired to go on.


Here we have an actor a someone having the immediate sensation  of experiencing all of these situations at once. Our sympathy, our empathy is heightened now having moved slowly with the speaker to this point this exhaustion of possibilities of exploration.  How the I creates meaning. 

But the poem continues:


Then you appeared, as if from California

or heaven, and held out your hand.


My ghost bones stirred. 

I let you in.  You carried me out.



I love how the mythos of California and the Donner Party all convenes in that line and then deepens with the mention of heaven.  And that last line, such simplistic language, such simplistic action and we enter into a relationship with language, with each other, and with the experience of salvation. 


This is a poem about how a poem after that first reading continues to create waves of memory, of emotion, and of empathy.  How someone you meet can utterly shatter you. How a situation and the choices we make constantly creates a different person from who we thought we were at the outset.  Through the layers and disguises we meet ourselves many times over, and each time we are changed. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tricking Myself

Image of the Day:  House finch, with its purple-streaked head, and a male cardinal all got up in red, sharing space in my window feeder.  Studies in red.

So I ran five miles for the first time ever yesterday and felt pretty good!  I ran without listening to music and found a rhythm, a pace.  On the way back, I kept tricking myself, telling myself it was much much longer than it appeared, which for some weird reason, seemed to help me keep going. And then I had a social gathering event and drank vodka.  That went right to my head.  I mean I ate and everything but still.  So today I'm exhausted.   

I'm not going to do an August a Day poem thingy.  I was so tempted but I just can't this month.  But I got the Oulipo Compendium and so will be studying that.  I also cut up, in anticipation of a few Oulipo exercises, some old poems of mine that weren't working and hope to rework them into other poems that will work.  I still have poems out that I submitted in January and am waiting on.  And other newer submissions I'm watching in my submittable account, watching as they go from "Received" to "In Progress" and then checking Duotrope to see who's rejecting or accepting things.    It's a wonder I can get any other work done at all. 

But I do have a poem here at the Silver Birch Press blog.  They've paired my poem with one of my favorite artists, Frida Kahlo, and I love that the self-portrait they chose of Kahlo's has a thorn necklace around her throat.  I always wanted to do a series of ekphrastic poems on Frida, but I just couldn't get enough distance, I think, to write anything that spoke of me or to me or whatever.  Maybe some day.  Silver Birch Press is devoting the whole month of August to Self Portrait poems, so check around and look at the other stuff.  Really fantastic work.  And I do love it when journals pair the work with art.  Just so much more conversation happening. 


Mid-drought, more sun.
When did the tumbler

of water, bedside, fill
with dust? When did you

learn you were a riverbed
no river would touch?

Andrea Cohen

The Cincinnati Review
Summer 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The One in Contact

Image of the day:  Milky clouds creaming a blue bowl of a sky.

So this is sort of indicative of how my week has been going:  I'm driving my son to his music lesson from our house and I think I've timed it as usual but I'm ten minutes late because usually I'm in the center of town, which is ten minutes away, so of course the instructor has left by the time I get there--and when my husband gets home, who is the one in contact with the instructor, I want to send an apology via email, which he does--only to find out when he checks his email that the instructor had canceled.  Canceled earlier in the day.

My chapbook, Just Beneath Our House I Hide My Other Body, is in the First Ever Hyacinth Girl Press Thunderdome!  Margaret Bashaar, editor extraordinaire, is, instead of just putting up lists of semi-finalists, finalists, and the four winning chapbooks, making brackets instead, and out of hundreds of manuscripts, mine is one of 32 to battle it out.  So that's exciting and very entertaining. 

I think I told you that I was enrolled in what's called a MOOC course, which stands for a Massive Open Online Course, about How Poets Write.  It has been such a great course and I've loved watching the videos.  If you're interested, here's a link to one of the videos on you-tube.   It's about the pleasure of poetry.  One of the things the videos have been stressing is ways of using constraints or rules to get you to write a poem in surprising ways. 

And one of the books they suggested reading was Srikanth Reddy's Voyager, which I just bought. He had a whole process about how he wrote this book, using the memoir of Kurt Waldheim, that he talks about here at this link.  It's quite fascinating. 


  by Peter Kline     

You wound a ball of twine around my eyes
then pinned the end between my fingers.

You gowned me in white tissue
like a hothouse nectarine.

The furtive door at last unbarred, I was
amazed at the garden's suggestion

throating from vining flower-walls
in breaths that quickened with mine.

How long I lingered beneath
sun awnings and a stone-and-mortar sky,

only you know. For when I found the throneroom
festooned with pelvis bones,

the twin-fingered god on whose nether lip I hung
a kiss, a crape-gartered barb,

was you--you the pursued, yours
the bull's head draped with fragrant lash-black hair.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Inside Their Skin

Image of the Day:  Small green globes of unripe tomatoes, holding summer's juice inside their skin.

I'm enrolled in this free, online poetry workshop and they have these videos of poets talking about the craft of poetry, which is fabulous and reminds me of so much good poets and poetry I need to read and reread and today I was reminded of Robert Creeley.  You should read this poem about love and language here.

So in April, while I was trying to write a poem a day and failing, I did write a few Swedish Fairy tale poems.  I made these completely up but it was fun.  My father's side of the family is Swedish, and I got this book, Jolly Calle and other Swedish fairy tales, but I can't seem to get into them.  So I just made up my own.  Anyway, you can read one of them here, at Rose Red Review.  You should also check out the art work and other writers in there.  And then go write your own fairy tale, using your heritage. 

Yesterday my son and I went to a nearby town's fourth of July parade.  They had, of course, closed off the main street into town and the parade was all lined up as we walked into town past it.  Our own private preview.  It was a great parade but LOUD.  My son dancing and clapping and getting more excited about a packet of carrot seeds being thrown to him rather than all the candy. 

I hope you enjoyed your fourth. 

Mary Ruefle quoting Milosz:  "The purpose of poetry is to remind us / how difficult it is to remain just one person" (140).

3 am

Winter and I am awake again
in the darkness of a moonless night
no light to drive out the black animal
that creeps about my head
tonguing its way around hidden hurts
like an evil mother
licking to life the morbid thoughts
of 3 am.

 Nicki Griffin

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Finding a New Place

Image of the Day:  Black fly on your bare back and you can't smack it and your flesh feels like a ripe pear being crushed.

It's hot today.  Hot today, hot yesterday.  And so I took my dog for a walk early-ish today, earlier for me and my son, earlier than yesterday.  And I was all worried about loading my son up with insect repellant, him and me, so I had him jump outta the car and sprayed and sprayed and then sprayed myself and then got the dog out and punched the car door locks, locking the car, turned around and went...oh noNo no no no. Yep.  Locked my keys, my cell phone, and my purse in the car.  And do you know where my extra car keys are?  That's right, in my purse, so that I have my keys wherever I have my purse.  So.  We still took the dog for a walk, albeit a short one, and then walked to the police station and got a nice ride home.  After a very very warm walk.  And then I turned that experience into a rough draft poem. It's gotta be good for something, right?

But it's still hot outside, and since it's hot outside, I have a nice cool poem to blow your way, here, at the gorgeous Cider Press Review.  And I'll be finding a new place for my extra keys, thank you very much.

Poetry Prompt:  Write about your teeth.  Or, write about biting into something.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


My poem, "The Woman of Lascaux," in the recent issue of Sou'wester, a journal I've been trying to get into for, oh, four or five years.

Diane Lockward has some great links to new journals that are beautiful.  I went and found Waxwing, which is gorgeous and has fantastic poets in their issue.  Plus, Cedar Waxwings are my absolutely favorite bird, so I had to submit.  Wish me luck with all that.

I actually did write a fair amount of poems for this June Poem-A-Day month.  Having plenty of journal entries helped.  But the summer schedule is shifting and so I think I'm back to just writing in the journal, collecting things and hopefully later, I can work some poems out of them.

From Madness, Rack, and Honey:  "Poetry is NEVER encoded--it is NEVER a covert operation whose information is ciphered and must be deciphered--and yet it does incline toward self-concealment, insofar as it concentrates intently on what words conceal, or, to put it another way, on what language seeks to reveal.

It concentrates on the inside in an attempt to reverse the situation; to turn it inside out" (91).

There is a Stir, Always 
Catherine Graham
If I hold onto this body the snow will grow inside me
and the winter of my cells will flake
into tiny crystals like six-figured gods,
each arrow tip attempting to make the point of something
as tears flow.

There is a stir, always.

I rise to the cold
to take my place among the fragile stars,
and sleep.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kind of Karmic

Image of the Day:  Two white-throated sparrows chasing one another into the blooming Asian Dogwood tree, bouncing in the breeze.

There is a wire fallen down onto my mailbox today.  I called the town's electrical office and they tell me they think a truck--I'm assuming one of those semi-trucks--came through and ripped out a bunch of wires along this stretch of road.  The wire is a FIOS wire, and the company's been notified, but apparently don't seem to be in a hurry to fix it.  Hang it back up.  I don't think I'm getting my mail today. 

Got two rejections yesterday--one read, "Dear entrant"--entrant not even being capitalized.  You know it's not good when  the letter starts out that way.  But at least I can send some stuff back out now.  I figured if I complained about (see previous post) maybe I'd get some kind of karmic action out of it. 

Reading Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey.  Many bloggers have been commenting on the book--Molly Spenser, for one, and I had begun it but put it down somewhere and then, you know, other books get in the way and you've forgotten about it.  I am enjoying watching her think on the page--exploring her biases against the use of poetry and advertisements, for example, and coming to the realization she doesn't quite know how to feel about it.  One thing that made me smile that she wrote: "All we can say in defense of our insane tribulations is that they were an act of love--a supremely sentimental act--an act of causeless emotion--that made us commit embarrassing gestures" (51).  Poetry being an embarrassing gesture.  Maybe that's why it's so hard to teach, so hard to talk about in general. 

I'm trying to decide whether to try and write every day--write a poem, that is--or just keep writing in my journal for June.  I have this back and forth every month it seems:  the effort to write seems to me to be good practice, but that expectation is high and the fall, the fail, can be quite hard.  So I don't know. 

How to Go Extinct
Caroline Manring

A bird’s mouth is its gape.
As when
young beg.

No one let us go awry;
we just got some heavy focus on
& failed to write

We found a pasture
& delivered ourselves
into it
unprepared. We found

things happen
before our hands

the wire.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Sudden Subtle

Image of the Day:  Driving with the windows down and the sudden subtle perfume of lilacs scenting the air. 

It's funny how the submission process happens.  Sometimes journals can have a return rate of just a few days--I've had acceptances within twenty-four hours and those are heady, I can tell you!--and sometimes you wonder what on earth is happening to your poems.  Now, realistically, I know that editors have lives, they are super-busy with those lives, and the poems might have to go through a committee process, etc.  But emotionally, for me, this round of submissions is taking forever!  I have four packets of poems that have been out for over 100 days or so, which doesn't sound like that much time.  And I hate when I get impatient. 

But I did get an acceptance yesterday which made my week!  I have written two poems about Maria Sibylla Merian,  that entymologist I've been interested in, and those were accepted by a new journal,
Tinderbox Poetry Review, that I'm thrilled to be in.  I haven't had the wherewithal to write any more about her or her gorgeous plates, but hopefully in June, all things poetry-wise will pick up. 

Wish me luck this weekend!

By the Front Door
by W. S. Merwin

Rain through the morning
and in the long pool a toad singing
happiness old as water

"By the Front Door" by W.S. Merwin from The Moon Before Morning. © Copper Canyon Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Thanks everyone for playing.  And the winners are....[drum roll please!]

Elliot won Oni Buchanan's What Animal!

Rachel Thomson won Her Vena Amoris!

and Michael Wells won a copy of The Journal!

I will be emailing you all shortly to find out where to send these items.  If I don't have your email, please email me at bergcaro at gmail dot com.  Thank you!

It is possible I may throw in random additional things into your freebies.

Congratulations and stop in again next year!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting Something

Image of the Day:  Wet chickadees rustling their wings.

I hope your poeming is going well.  I got some poems, not as many as I'd like, but some, anyways.  And there's always next month, right?

Don't forget to enter the big poetry giveaway!  Comment here for my giveaway and check out the list over at Kelli's blog.  There are so many poets giving great books away you've got a great chance at getting something.

Trying to understand the words
        Uttered on all sides by birds,
I recognize in what I hear
        Noises that betoken fear.

Though some of them, I’m certain, must
        Stand for rage, bravado, lust,
All other notes that birds employ
        Sounds like synonyms for joy.

W. H. Auden

Friday, April 11, 2014

Guest Blogger: Angele Ellis's Writing Process Blog Tour

Welcome Angele!



Alf shukran (a thousand thanks) to poet and blogger Carol Berg for inviting me to join the Writing Process Blog Tour, as well as for posting my answers on her blog.


For more writing process goodness, check out writer-superlibrarian Leigh Anne Focareta’s blog, Be Less Amazing <> and poet-visual artist Jill Khoury’s new blog <>


1. What Am I Working On?


As usual, I have several projects going at once. I’m revising a dystopian YA (young adult) short story after receiving suggestions from an editor—and this may be the germ of a novel. I’m also retooling my new poetry chapbook manuscript (working title, “Departing Chameleon,” which is fitting, as it continues to change) for another round of submissions. My “family” Arab American novel, Desert Storms (several chapters/excerpts of which have been published) is hanging fire…I must finish a draft this year. I’ve been doing poetry reviews for Weave Magazine, and I hope this will continue. I still take on freelance editing assignments…and I’m meeting with a neighbor who’s opening an arts and crafts shop about a saleable literary idea.

2. How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?


As I work in several genres, I’m thinking about some common differences (preoccupations, obsessions) that influence my work. I was weaned on Victorian and Modernist poets, whose work my mother recited to me; I know a number of these poems by heart myself. An early reader, I devoured every form of fairy tale and folk tale I could find, along with classic children’s novels and biographies of distinguished women (there weren’t many then!). By the age of ten and eleven I had moved on to Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare (both sonnets and plays), Dickens, Maugham. The film version of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 had a profound impact on me (along with other movies, from classics to cheesy science fiction), although I didn’t read him until high school, along with such writers as Emily Dickinson, Katherine Anne Porter, Rainer Maria Rilke, Theodore Roethke, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky—and Mahmoud Darwish’s “A Lover from Palestine.” By the time I was in college, writers inspired by/claimed by second wave feminism had made inroads into the canon—Doris Lessing, Sylvia Plath, Marge Piercy, Virginia Woolf, Kate Chopin, Adrienne Rich, and Judy Grahn, to name a few.


So history and politics are important to me as a writer. (I was heavily involved in the peace and justice movement during the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and since 9/11, I have actively embraced my Arab American identity and the stories it leads me to tell.) Stylistically, I am more traditional than experimental—I love narrative (however fantastical), form (including sonnets, ghazals, pantoums, haiku, and haibun), meter, rhyme, and the connection rather than the disassociation of themes and images.

3. Why Do I Write What I Do?

Having ventured into this answer in Question 2, my simple retort is compulsion. This can work well, when I’m in a fever to get something done—or badly, when my “teeming brain” is pulled in multiple directions, and only fragments of different pieces seem to emerge. But nothing is wasted—like matter, my writing is transformed (sometimes), rather than destroyed.

4.How Does My Writing Process Work?


I have to write something daily—even if it’s only “finger exercises,” as I call the birthday and other occasional poems I compose and post for Facebook friends (and for other friends and family).  Fueled by Earl Grey tea, I work well under deadline, although I’m better with deadlines imposed by others—editors, clients, colleagues, contests—than with those I impose on myself. Once a night owl, I now find myself more productive in the mornings—unless I’m under deadline or obsessed.


Other than that, my process is haphazard. The only time I felt I was really smoking was when I had the privilege of spending four weeks at a writer’s retreat in Costa Rica, courtesy of a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Cut off from regular responsibilities, I drafted thirty poems—thirteen of which have been published in revised form—and six loosely connected short stories, four of which have been published in revised form. But like most people, I couldn’t live like that forever—and after four weeks, I didn’t want to (and I couldn’t keep up the pace, because of my chronic health problems). The trick I haven’t mastered is how to transfer more of that discipline into the everyday.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Big Poetry Giveaway 2014!!

Okay so here is the big poetry giveaway deal: 

I will be giving away one copy of my poetry chapbook Her Vena Amoris (and possibly another of my chapbooks if all goes well).

I will also be giving away What Animal by Oni Buchanan.  This is a fabulous book--I love Oni because she reminds me of some of the Swedish poets I love, she is uber-creative and talented (she plays classical piano as well as writes fabulous poems) and well here is the opening few lines from "The Ginea Pig and the Green Balloon":

I approached the luminous stranger who came to me
from darkness in a gown of lettuce leaves, in a velvet

cloak of green that appeared at first another piece of dark,

so that should tempt anyone.  I may also throw in a copy of The Journal, Winter 2014, in which a poem of mine appears.

So there you have it!  If you want to enter, please leave a comment and I will put your name in a hat come May. 

If you are interested in participating as a blogger, here is a link to Kelli's blog that explains all the details. 

Good luck!  And happy poetry month!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Is The [Fill in Your Own Adjective Here]-est Month

Image of the day:  Red nibs of tulips slipping through the earth.

Happy April 1st!  Which means it's also National Poetry month wherein poets have their own sort of marathon and try to write a poem a day.  I will be trying that as well and luckily I can write that since I've written today's poem.  Not gonna worry though if I don't make it through--it is really enough to write one poem. 

Also, it is the Big Poetry Give-away and yes, I'm going to participate in that as well once I can figure out what book I have to part with.  I was going to give Blowout by Denise Duhamel away, but I started to read it and now can't put it down.  I  may still give it away, heartbreakingly.  I will also be giving one or two (and perhaps my brand-new chapbook The Ornithologist Poems, which is in production) of my chapbooks away.  So stay tuned for that announcement.

I'm trying to read several books of poems at once:  I've got Kelli Russel Agodon's Hourglass Museum, which is amazing and full of lists that I want to try and riff on.  Also, When My Brother Was An Aztec by Natalie Diaz, which is, well, you need to go read some of those poems right now.

There are several ways of celebrating poetry this month--readings and putting poems in your pockets to share at a moment's notice and writing oulipo poems or taking a chapbook challenge

So choose whatever poetry potion you'd like and take a big swig. 

Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.

Izumi Shikibu (Japan, 974?-1034?)

[translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani]

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

Image of the Day:  A huge red-tailed hawk swooping large in someone's tiny Boston lawn. 

So there is a Writing Process Blog Tour making the rounds of the blogosphere and I've been tagged by Donna Vorreyer.  First a little about Donna: 

Donna Vorreyer lives in the Chicago area with her husband and son who have both become accustomed to seeing her with a journal and a pen. She is a middle school teacher and spends her days trying to convince teenagers that words are interesting and important. Her work has been published in many print and online journals including New York Quarterly, Flashquake, After Hours: A Chicago Journal of Literature and Art, and Literary Mama. Donna's full-length book, A House of Many Windows, is available here from Sundress Press, and her chapbook, We Build Houses of Our Bodies, is available here at Dancing Girl Press.

And here is the Tour:

What am I working on?

Right now I’m working on filling up my journal in anticipation of April Write Every Day Month. My journal is where I collect language and images and use it  when I’m writing poetry. I’m also working on reading:  I just received Hourglass Museum by Kelli Russell Agodon and will be pouring over that, letting her ideas and images spark something in me, hopefully. I have been researching about Maria Sibylla Merian, an entomologist from the 1700s. Merian created these amazing images of insects on their host plants and I want to write about her and the insects she drew. So I’m reading Chrysalis which is a biography about her life written by Kim Todd. I highly recommend the book—it’s a great read so far.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This question is like asking me how I am different from other human beings. I guess my answer is that my work is different based on my current obsessions (see above) and the language choices I make. The tone of my voice—how can I describe what my voice sounds like? I have heard that when someone is recorded and then played back their recording along with other people’s voices, they can’t recognize their own voice. Of course I would (probably) recognize my poems because I have slaved over them, but I also think it’s true of poets that sometimes they forget a poem they’ve written about and it surprises them when they re-read or re-find it.  So I guess my short answer is my work is different based on the choices I constantly make. 

Why do I write what I do?

Because I can’t write otherwise. Again, this is all wrapped up in who I am, what I’m thinking about and experiencing, and what is influencing me at the moment.


How does your writing process work?

Well, I think I’ve been describing that all along in these questions, so I hope I don’t sound redundant. But, I begin by writing in my journal, collecting images and language and also, my experiences.  I consider my emotions:  have I been particularly angry of late?  Hopeful or scared?  That will most likely come out in my poems in one way or another. I read other poets and consider their language and subject matter:  how can I write about the universe? About feeling lonely or lost?  Can I write about food or art? Then I will try and find a prompt or listen to what’s happening around me.  Sometimes a word will come across my path over and over again, so I try and pay attention to that—I need to write using the word purchase, in the archaic sense of acquiring  because its been popping up so much lately (which I need to do but haven’t yet). Then I’ll begin the poem in my journal and when things get exciting for me or at some mysterious point which I can’t quite explain, I will move to the computer and re-write the poem there, revising as well at that point. Then I’ll sort of let the poem sit, although I’m constantly coming back to it and making slight changes. Finally, I’ll consider submitting the poem when I think it’s ready. Sometime, I think it’s ready too soon.  But then I’ll revise it again, and send it back out.

Next up on the tour:  Molly Spencer over The Stanza blog, Jill Khoury over at Poem of the Day,
Leigh Anne Focareta, at Be Less Amazing, and Angele Ellis here on my blog.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Three Questions

Image of the Day:  Chunks of grey-outlined ice piled on top of crunchy snow banks.

Hey there.  It's March and Spring is coming. The robins seem busy to me and I've actually seen daffodils sprouting through the mud in Boston. I will be on vacation soon and can't wait. 

The lovely and talented Jenn Monroe asked me Three Questions over at Extracts which you can read here. You should also pre-order the new Extracts journal cause it's gonna be good.

And while you are in a purchasing mood, you should pre-order the new Mom Egg Review because I have a poem in there, "Lascaux Woman and Daughter," that of course you want to read. Mom Egg Review will be celebrating its twelfth year, which is pretty impressive! 

And now I'm off to take the dog for a walk. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Now I'm Not Sure

Image of the Day:  Icicles dripping spheres of light.

So it's tweak your manuscript time again:  renaming, revising, and rearranging. I've changed some titles of poems (thank you Ruth!) and just been trying to listen to myself when something about a poem bothers me, even just a teeny tiny amount. Lots of contests coming up. 

Jenn Monroe has excerpted some of my poems from Her Vena Amoris, which you can read here and which you probably want to buy for some Very Important Reason, such as someone's birthday or because, you know, you should have it.  For your very own self. Link at right.  ----->

And I finished Bluets and that is an amazing book. But now I'm not sure what to read.  Any suggestions?

The Joins
       Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending precious pottery with gold.

What's between us
often seems flexible as the webbing
between forefinger and thumb.

Seems flexible, but it's not;
what's between us
is made of clay,

like any cup on the shelf.
It shatters easily. Repair
becomes the task.

We glue the wounded edges
with tentative fingers.
Scar tissue is visible history,

the cup more precious to us
we saved it.

In the art of kintsugi,
a potter repairing a broken cup
would sprinkle the resin

with powdered gold.
Sometimes the joins
are so exquisite

they say the potter
may have broken the cup
just so he could mend it.

Chana Bloch

The Southern Review
Winter 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Image of the Day:  A grey world wearing ice's whitest slip.

Happy Valentine's Day!  I have a poem here at the always gorgeous Escape Into Life.  I'm always so happy to be part of Kathleen Kirk's special poetry features, as I know I will be in fabulous poetry company. Today's is no exception.

It's been seriously snowy here in New England with snow days and late openings for school.  I've already got packets of sweet peas to plant and thinking how quickly and slowly February moves, sometimes. 

I hope your day is filled with fragrance.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

In General

Image of the Day:  Sparrow Hawk lifting off the snow holding a squealing small bird.

I think it was a junco.  Poor thing.  That happened this morning as I was taking the puppy out.  Well, everyone has to eat, I guess.  Still--it happened under my birdfeeder.

Snowy walk this morning.  I had a fabulous time also at the reading last night--a friend I hadn't expected showed up with her gorgeous daughter--yay for Shoney!  And the reading went well and it was so much fun to meet people and hear their poems as well.  Thank you so much to Jenn Monroe for inviting me.  If  you get a chance,  you should go to Gloucester and check out their series and just the town in general.  And thank you to Diane for coming with me and showing me some great new places!!  Here's a picture of me reading.

I've gotten a few rejections lately, big surprise there, and some good news as well.  Still reading Bluets.

Becoming a Book
"When writers die they become books, which is, after all,
not too bad an incarnation."

                                          —Jorge Luis Borges

           for Ben Furnish

All these years,
without knowing it,
I've been preparing for my rebirth
as a book.

Each day
I try to condense
light and darkness
into one more page.

At night
I count the pages left
before it's time
to come back.

Now that my destiny is known,
we need not say goodbye.
I'll be there guarding you
from a shelf.

Howard Schwartz

The Library of Dreams: New & Selected Poems 1965-2013
BkMk Press

Monday, February 3, 2014

Become More Urgent

Image of the Day:  Spring-songs the birds are making now, in particular the cardinal and the tufted tit-mice.  Even the thudding of the woodpeckers has changed, become more urgent.

So I won the lottery last Thursday while I was at work!!  No, not really, what really happened was I was a finalist for a Massachusetts Cultural Council poetry grant, which comes with a monetary prize.  I am so excited!!!  It makes me feel like I won a million dollars, or that my poems did.  It was nice to get outside validation on my poetry even though I shouldn't really need it. 

Also, I got an acceptance to a journal I've been trying to get into since 2009.  That was sugar on the icing.  And, she writes, looking outside at the small snowflakes coming down, much needed cheery news.

I'm counting Poetry Monday a success, both last week and today.  I've gotten some poetry stuff done that needed getting done and tried to focus on the busy work of poetry that isn't as fun as writing is.  Or as fun as reading is, for that matter.

And for reading, I'm getting back into Bluets by Maggie Nelson.  It's a fascinating exploration into the color blue.  I'm certainly learning a lot about it.  For example, that "Epicurus, proposed...that objects themselves project a kind of ray that reaches out toward the eye, as if they were looking at us" (21). 

To Sea
 Jocelyn Casey-Whiteman 

I am a brilliant animal
but when the world unfurls
the black hallway

of its appetite, I shut myself
inside, inside
this self, a shock

of Russian Dolls shellacked and shelved
among the men who wear the winning suits.
Some hands

were so warm it took time
to feel them find my throat.
I have all these halves

to look after. They give people ideas.
My eyes, carved sharp and wide,
have had to multiply;

it's wild how much they see.
Dear Monsters, keep your Old Brain
games far from me.

I edge fire with heed.
Not for ash, nor smoke
but truth, a better way to breathe,

Inside me, something found has its beat.
I drive myselves to sea.
I drive myselves to sea.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

To Open Up

Image of the Day:  The tufted tit-mice digging kernels out of seeds, banging them on the branches to open up. 

So tomorrow, I have declared to be my own personal Poetry Day.  I plan on reading a lot of poetry, included Valzhyna Mort's Factory of Tears, starting my Anna Akhmatova biography, reading the latest 32 Poems journal.  I also hope to write some poems, revise some poems.  I want to re-visit my manuscript again and choose poems for my upcoming reading in Gloucester.  I'm also going to start fretting over the NEA application, wherein I have to choose ten poems for a very large grant.  No pressure there.  Also, a few other small poetry projects, such as thinking about chapbook possibilities and other things. 

I am preparing for this by doing every single piece of laundry I can find today, cleaning the house this past week so I wouldn't / couldn't use that as an excuse when the going gets tough and find an hour and a half has slipped by just while I vacuumed this one little area over here and vacuum the whole house.  Yesterday, I also submitted some poems because I don't want to do that tomorrow as I tend to really dislike my poetry when I'm in that mode and it's a real slog to get it done. I don't want to feel that way about my poems tomorrow. 

I am hoping that this will spark a little more enthusiasm for my poems and for doing some poetry stuff. Also, because I haven't had the time or finances to do other kinds of poetry stuff that can help kick the poetry doldrums, such as going to poetry readings and or writing conferences etc.  I am making my own writing conference tomorrow, creating my own poetry reading.  Wish me luck.

I finished Incarnadine, by Mary Szybist.  It is beautiful.  So here's a poem by her, which is gorgeous, from the Poetry Foundation. 

In Tennessee I Found a Firefly

By Mary Szybist 
Flashing in the grass; the mouth of a spider clung   
          to the dark of it: the legs of the spider   
held the tucked wings close,
          held the abdomen still in the midst of calling   
with thrusts of phosphorescent light—

When I am tired of being human, I try to remember
          the two stuck together like burrs. I try to place them   
central in my mind where everything else must
          surround them, must see the burr and the barb of them.   
There is courtship, and there is hunger. I suppose
          there are grips from which even angels cannot fly.   
Even imagined ones. Luciferin, luciferase.
          When I am tired of only touching,
I have my mouth to try to tell you
          what, in your arms, is not erased.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Reading February 9 In Gloucester

Come listen to me read--I'll try and dig out some Valentine's-esque poems--and then check out the Open Mic afterward!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

To Navigate

Image of the Day:  The increasingly cloudy sky--a spreading of grey wings--and busy chickadees.

Happy New Year!  I hope 2014 is generous and kind to you and yours.  (And, also, to me and mine!)
I spent New Year's Eve at home, relaxing by a fire, and enjoying being home.  Just the right amount of bubbly.  Did I mention how happy I am to be home?!?

For Christmas, I got a gift card to Amazon and spent it that very evening.  I purchased some music, some replacement music since I tend to be rough on the cds in my car, and also, and I know you'll find this shocking, some poetry books.  I bought:  Incarnadine by Mary Szybist, Quelled Communiques by Chloë Joan López--but that's sold out so I was disappointed, but will retry, and
Stay, Illusion by Lucie Brock-Broido.  I cannot wait to get those and dig in. 

I have a poem here, at Cider Press Review, which has just started taking simultaneous submissions, so I urge you to submit.  It's a very pretty journal, too, and easy to navigate. 

And I have an interview with the fabulous Diane Lockward, here, at IthacaLit, another very beautiful journal.  I asked Diane about her book, The Crafty Poet, which has been and continues to be incredibly helpful to me and I'm sure you as well.  So pick it up. 

New years' morning

A low, quiet music is playing-- 
distorted trumpet, torn bass line, 
white windows. My palms 
are two speakers the size 
of pool-hall coasters.
I lay them on the dark table 
for you to repair.

Copyright © 2010 by Carl Adamshick. From Curses and Wishes (Louisiana State University Press, 2011).

Heron Tree

I have so enjoyed working as an editor for the Heron Tree volume 5 edition.  I learned so much from reading submitted poems!  And realized w...