Monday, January 8, 2018

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press January 2018

FEATURED POET: ABBY E. MURRAY teaches creative writing at the University of Washington Tacoma, where she also offers free workshops for soldiers, veterans and their loved ones. She is the editor of Collateral, an online literary journal that showcases writing about the impact of military service beyond the combat zone. A recent recipient of the Sustainable Arts Foundation Award, Abby has poems in current or forthcoming issues of Prairie Schooner, Radar, and Minerva Rising. 

YOUR INTERPRETER SENDS ME A HOUSEDRESS    

When you return to Iraq or Afghanistan
you are given new clothes as gifts:
the long robe made of goat fur that, even folded up,
is the size of a small desk. The brown turban,
the rough cotton tunic and pants.
We have photos of you sipping chai in these clothes,
sitting cross-legged in the sun. Your teeth shine
as you laugh with the Iraqi interpreter
sitting beside you, holding bread in one hand.
When you leave he will be hunted by men
who come down from the hills at night
in white garments like stars crashing into Earth.
He will send you messages that say, My brother
until he is rescued by civilians
and sent to San Diego to work as a valet.
On your last day in Iraq he gives you a housedress
pressed flat in a plastic envelope and says
it is a gift for your wife: a woman who accepts gifts
from men other than her husband because she can,
because she does not know sending a dress to his wife
would be as unforgiveable as touching her hair.
The dress is meant to be worn indoors:
orange and yellow with flashes of red,
the color of so many explosions I’ve watched on the news:
balloons of flame that float over mosques and markets.
At home, in our dining room, I pull the dress on
even though I am ashamed of its slim waist
and fussy gold thread, the zebra lamé pattern
stretched thin across my broad shoulders
and barreled chest, the Virgin Mary languishing
on a tin medallion under my throat.
I am too tall, too wide and too plain for this dress,
too impatient for its shimmering neckline
and narrow sleeves. I feel like I am smothering it.
We hang it on one of your good suit hangers
at the back of our closet where it smolders
and gleams between my wool sweaters and jeans,

throws sparks of light into my shoes.

SITTING IN A SIMULATED LIVING SPACE AT THE SEATTLE IKEA

To sit in the simulated living space at Ikea
is to know what sand knows
as it rests inside the oyster.
This is how you might arrange your life
if you were to start from scratch:
a newer, better version of yourself applied
coat by coat, beginning with lamplight
from the simulated living room.
The man who lives here has never killed.
There is no American camouflage drying
over the backs of his kitchen chairs,
no battle studies on the coffee table.
He travels without a weapon,
hangs photographs of the Taj Mahal,
the Eiffel Tower above the sofa.
The woman who lives here has no need
for prescriptions or self-help,
her mirror cabinet holds a pump
for lotion and a rose-colored water glass,
her nightstand is stacked with hardcovers
on Swedish architecture.
The cat who lives here has been declawed,
the dog rehomed. There are no parakeets
shrilling over newspaper in the decorative cage,
no parking tickets in the breadbox.
When you finish your dollar coffee
and exit through the simulated front door,
join other shoppers with chapsticks
in their purses and Kleenex and receipts,
with t-shirts that say Florida Keys 2003
and unopened Nicorette in their pockets,
you wish you could say this place
is not enough for you, that you’re better off
in the harsh light of the parking garage,
a light that shows your skin beneath your skin,
the color of your past self,
pale in places, flushed in others.

WRITE YOUR POEM: 
"We hang it on one of your good suit hangers
at the back of our closet where it smolders"

Object + Description =  Story Ballad  

Ballads used to be a poetic form that told stories.  
Now we associate them music.  
Abby's housedress weaves in and out and we
experience the all the characters and conflict.

What can you describe with a poetic form, and 
leave the reader with a narrative?  
Deconstruct a cereal box.  Write you poem on the blank side.
Glue the box back together!


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press December 2017

FEATURED POET: Gerry McFarland worked in healthcare for thirty years with drafts of poems folded up in his pocket. In 2011, he graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writer’s Workshop. His poetry has appeared in Crab Creek Review, Bayou, Switched-on-Gutenberg, Zyzzyva, Contemporary American Voices, Cider Press Review, Salt Hill Journal, and, most recently, War, Literature, and the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities, among many other publications. He is currently working on a memoir. He and his wife, Allegra, an avid gardener, live and create in their home on the Olympic Peninsula.


THE MAKING
               for Tim

Closed on a hammer his hands

Are like hills,
Swollen places
On the earth;
Palms open,
Become
Rough plains, each line

A minute stream bed circling

Discolored
Calluses. At evening
Seated
Under kitchen light, elbows
On his knees palms open

As a stubble field,

He picks at scabs,
Fingers newly blistered faults
In a ritual of reparation
To the God of the Unfinished.

Tomorrow his hands will make a house.

Mute instruments
Will build from air
The fact of wood,

Join opposing forests. There must be

A new word for such making.

In morning light, on the hill,
Pine studs will frame the house
Of the new word,
The molten sun

Light the house’s bones.

The hands
Will start things off.
Blocks will hold promise
And the smells of pine,

Sawdust, earth, and rain will be new.

WRITE YOUR POEM:
"...To the God of the Unfinished..."
Poems put a space between the certain and uncertain...
Maybe that is even a poet's role.  To witness the truth in ambiguity and throw off the didactic.

The trick is that you can use the form for either priority.  No worries.  In your next poem ask if your punchline is pointing to the certain or uncertain.  Either way, 

write a solstice poem to a child and light a candle.  Let them decide.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press November 2017

FEATURED POET: Carol Alexander’s poetry appears in anthologies including Broken Circles (Cave Moon Press), Through a Distant Lens (Write Wing Publishing) and Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Vol. 1.  She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work can be found in numerous print and online journals such as Bluestem, Caesura, Chiron Review, The Common, The New Verse News, Southern Humanities Review, and Soundings East. She is the author of the chapbook BRIDAL VEIL FALLS (Flutter Press). HABITAT LOST is Alexander’s first full-length collection of poems.

                                       



DEAN STREET

By the bus stop, dayshift workers gray-skinned in the April chill, stand lean marbles, granites, samples carved with exemplary names.

She’ll have eaten dinner, girded with a bib, in the last fastidious shafts of 
light. Our talk was of the flowering crabapple tree,
its quivering, avenging burst of bloom.

Rain blurs into bluestone snow the heft of ancient dolerite. And the fire-tipped shadows of dusk curtaining the windows of the hall have frightened her.

The bus, its exhalations choked with grime, is bearing down. Even now, I can’t describe for her the weight of this unwieldy, this inhuman thing.


BALANCE

You write, this is not fun. Two rockets arc above Tel Aviv
and in the streets, sirens and rubble. I forget you for weeks at a time
until you write about a trip to Mount Hebron, bellflowers, mignonette,
the grandchild’s bit of tooth, a logy rock agama in the sun.

I hope you’re getting a balanced view. There are bodies in red rags,
pensive cups of coffee after dawn, the drawing heat of the day.
Ordinary death proceeds with its modest civilities, prayers in shul.
In Khan Younis, a family shatters like a crystal cup; no prayer
will bind flesh to soul, no cool wind tame the burning of the coast.

Tell how it is for you, a garden with tall weeds, a son in the hills.
On your land, figs are slowly ripening despite the spider mites,
despite the lack of rain, the sirens louder than a mullah’s call.
Heat underlies the very ground where traders shook out silk.

You hope the dusty rocks and rags will be reported truthfully.

You hope, worried by tomato rot, to grow old

WRITE YOUR POEM

Modifiers. Do your modifiers create focus for the reader or focus for an English lit major?
Adjectives.  Adverbs.  Create a picture for the reader.  When we used to use SLR 35 mm cameras we had control of the focus?  Focus your poem for the reader.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press October 2017

FEATURED POET: BETTY SCOTT In the 1980s, she wrote a bimonthly column for the Wenatchee World titled “Musings by Betty Scott.” In 1992 she earned an MA in English with a writing emphasis from Western Washington University. In the past ten years, she has returned to her love for writing, the interplay of sounds and sense, experimenting with poetic and essay structures. Currently, she is exploring “performance poetry” collaborating with musician JP Falcon Grady who has put several of her Mother Earth poems to music. She is delighted to share a few of these in a setting of poetry and music.


BETTY GOES TO YOGA

He stood sentry on an island
between asphalt traffic lanes.

He had a chiseled nose and chin
his hair shoulder length.

In each hand, barbell bags
of groceries hung.  

To be quite clear as I drove by
            I imagined us and ecstasized.

But now on my yoga mat
I stretch

breathe out and realize
breathe in

I am old enough
breathe out

to be his mother.
Some say:

gasp in, his
grandmother



A Northwest Winter’s Dream

I do not know how I arrived
on this mountain or where we are destined
but my car is filled with passengers.
On a red-soiled road, we climb
wheels spinning crushing rock. When we
reach the summit, the cliff edge beckons.
My car could sprout wings but I swerve
from ledge and air and wake up scared. 

How mute, this day-break, how silent
this call to change my way on my distant
brother’s birthday. While trees pine
in greens and browns, the sky in empty gray
moon light shimmers through my bedroom’s shade

and I breathe in the awe of dawn. 


WRITE YOUR POEM!

"I do not know how I arrived"

Do you notice the moment?  Sometimes when we are crafting poems we become woodworkers gently revising and letting shavings fall to the floor over months and even years.

There is another element of poetry that honors the fragile moment of our lives.  We write it down, just to have a flash of memory years later.  In our ocean of images with cell phones we forget how fast things go by.  We lose the precious sights and sounds that have been distilled into poems for years.

Distill your words.  Cherish your life.  Cherish your poems.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press September 2017

FEATURED POET: Mike Hiler is a ceramic artist and writer who lives in Washington State. He is a former public school teacher, fire lookout, Wilderness Ranger, and managed National Forest Wilderness in the Washington Cascades for a number of years.  His featured book, Listos is the second book he has published with Cave Moon Press and we are excited.  Check out Buckskin Larch and Bedrock (2010) at cavemoonpress.com


Elegy for Spruce Creek 

Spruce Creek, where the tangle of ridge
           and rock are context for
The Raven, high elevation sage,
           and a tuft of deer fluff.

You won’t smell smoke
           from the sheepherder’s camp fire
or be welcomed by his dogs
           across a blanket of Pine grass.

It’s just as well.

The bears here are timid,
          the larch snags reach
to the blue sky backdrop
          from this bastion ridge


Holding up larger mountains.


Choice:

You have been given a choice
that clearly defines
opposites
and sustains the moment.

You will choose
and your choice will be correct,
the only alternative
among opposites,

Which will someday be wrong
when time
changes the question.

That was the choice
           you were given
           when you first sought
           to understand.

That was the choice

          you overlooked.


WRITE YOUR POEM!
"Spruce Creek, where the tangle of ridge
           and rock are context for
The Raven, high elevation sage,
           and a tuft of deer fluff."

Location, location, location the realtors tell us is the grand value of a piece of property.
The odd thing about poetry is that location can turn into metaphor or just be a statement of witness.  Witness to the inner life, or witness to an event, or exterior marker.  Rural poets thrive off of Whitman's dictums about grass.  Urban poets find a different landscape.  Still other poets reject landscape and use poetic structures and forms.

What are you using in your current poem?  Location?  Metaphor for an inner life? Witness of another time and place?  Write your poem on a fallen leaf and watch it flow down the river.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press June 2017

FEATURED POET: Carol Alexander’s poetry appears in anthologies including Broken Circles (Cave Moon Press), Through a Distant Lens (Write Wing Publishing) and Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Vol. 1.  She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work can be found in numerous print and online journals such as Bluestem, Caesura, Chiron Review, The Common, The New Verse News, Southern Humanities Review, and Soundings East. She is the author of the chapbook BRIDAL VEIL FALLS (Flutter Press). HABITAT LOST is Alexander’s first full-length collection of poems.




DEAN STREET

By the bus stop, dayshift workers gray-skinned in the April chill, stand lean marbles, granites, samples carved with exemplary names.

She’ll have eaten dinner, girded with a bib, in the last fastidious shafts of 
light. Our talk was of the flowering crabapple tree,
its quivering, avenging burst of bloom.

Rain blurs into bluestone snow the heft of ancient dolerite. And the fire-tipped shadows of dusk curtaining the windows of the hall have frightened her.


The bus, its exhalations choked with grime, is bearing down. Even now, I can’t describe for her the weight of this unwieldy, this inhuman thing.


BALANCE

You write, this is not fun. Two rockets arc above Tel Aviv
and in the streets, sirens and rubble. I forget you for weeks at a time
until you write about a trip to Mount Hebron, bellflowers, mignonette,
the grandchild’s bit of tooth, a logy rock agama in the sun.

I hope you’re getting a balanced view. There are bodies in red rags,
pensive cups of coffee after dawn, the drawing heat of the day.
Ordinary death proceeds with its modest civilities, prayers in shul.
In Khan Younis, a family shatters like a crystal cup; no prayer
will bind flesh to soul, no cool wind tame the burning of the coast.

Tell how it is for you, a garden with tall weeds, a son in the hills.
On your land, figs are slowly ripening despite the spider mites,
despite the lack of rain, the sirens louder than a mullah’s call.
Heat underlies the very ground where traders shook out silk.

You hope the dusty rocks and rags will be reported truthfully.

You hope, worried by tomato rot, to grow old

WRITE YOUR POEM
Does your poem setting act as a metaphor?  Does your poem use the setting to act as a witness?  Consider what literary device you are using for the place you are writing about in your poem.  Write your poem in the sandbox of a playground and watch the children erase it.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press April 2017

FEATURED POET: Joan Swift was born Joan Angevine and grew up in Rochester, New York, but has lived most of her life in the Seattle area of Washington State. She holds a B.A. from Duke and an M.A. in English-Creative Writing from the University of Washington. The last two of her four full-length books of poetry, The Dark Path of Our Names and The Tiger Iris, both won the Washington State Governors’ Award. Among her prizes and other awards are three National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, an Ingram Merrill Foundation Grant, awards from The Washington State Arts Commission, The Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a Pushcart Prize.

You can find her works also featured this month in the Seattle Review of Books

Sand, Rose Petals, Bones

I stand with my feet in the sand
beside the river, knowing the drought
has brought the two shores closer
,
looking between my toes for withered
rose petals, for the white talcum
of your ashes so heavy I saw them drift and sink

like a scarf pulled down in a strong wind.
It was your wish,
this very river, this kind of strewing.

The fracture line between air and water
is only a furrow, always changing,
the plow of separation pulled by a single animal.

Leaving Rio in the Rain

We stand on our separate decks as the lights
of Rio blossom in a misty rain.
I’m sipping vodka near the aqua of the pool.
This is how our lives will be from now on.
You are somewhere totally beyond my saving
while a thousand glowing flights of illumination
climb every hill around the harbor.
I want to go with you. They reflect in the water
where the ship leaves a scallop of wake as it leaves.
And again, lights in the air where each
shimmering drop is a kind of longing
to make descent beautiful, to wrap

whatever kills in tenderness.

WRITE YOUR POEM

With Joan dying not even days ago, I am a loss for words as to what coaching tip to leave.
Her words always offered a haunting, austere elegance in life and now they are imbued with a special glow.  They are offered in reverence.  More than ever, it is time to write your poem.

Poems are first about witness, and second about excellence, or form or line.  You are the only witness to your life.  Write the poems.  Thanks Joan.