Sunday, May 15, 2016

May, 2016

FEATURED POET: TOD MARSHALL grew up in Kansas. His book Bugle (Canarium Press, 2014) won the Washington State Book Award in 2015. His other books of poetry include The Tangled Line (Canarium Press, 2009), and Dare Say (University of Georgia Press, 2002). He has also published a collection of his interviews with contemporary poets, Range of the Possible (Eastern Washington University Press, 2002) and an attendant anthology of work by the interviewed poets, Range of Voices (EWU Press, 2005). He lives in Spokane, Washington, and teaches at Gonzaga University.  He is serving as the poet laureate for the state of Washington from 2016-2018.




I don’t know what that sheriff thought of me
(shirtless, eight, holding the sheet metal screen
door, bracket and chain to keep it from swinging
busted in the last storm), as I lied to him

again when he asked if my folks were home,
except that his face showed he knew how things
would end up for me. “Come on, I know they’re home.”
The a/c labored in a window, evening

cicadas made racket.  Behind me, the TV
that was on when I answered the door, clicked off.
“Who turned it off?”  I looked him straight on. 
“My little brother,” I said, just as he

toddled in diapers from the back of the trailer,
and we stood side by side, guarding that door.

(First published in Crab Creek Review)


Most of us know only smoke:  dirty gauze, grey
weight on each cough of an hour.  Red eye
of the sun lingering, that slow arson
plotting with lightning, both hiding in clouds,
and worse:  most of us have occasionally cursed
the haze, rubbed watery eyes, mumbling my day,
my breath, my unburnt minutes.  We’re like that.  Try,
instead, to feel real heat, to hold hands open

and near hot embers, blue propane of a grill;
to see meat slowly sear, grease sizzle
into cinder. It’s okay if you fail. 
Just try.  And try, too, beneath blue skies when wind
clears smoke away, try to recall the blackened land,
and maybe try becomes a small act to heal the abundant ash, the pain.

(First appeared in Elizabeth Austen's blog)


Shakespeare had stage blocking to get the attention of the audience with contrast. Sometimes it is the subject matter that shocks, like with farmworkers in Steinbeck's novels.  What does the poet have?  Not that much. It has to count.  

Note that Tod's first poem the screen door and diapers on his brother rivet the reader. Those tiny details are counterweights to whatever the sheriff is bringing to the front door.

What does your screen door do in your poem?  Notice there is no waxing eloquent in Tod's poem.  The moment is left with the eight-year old.  Economy of image and word.  

What can you cut out?  How can you focus your image?  Catch up to Tod around the state.  Write your poem.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

洞月亮 April 2016

FEATURED POET: Michael Daley— was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He later took vows and prepared to become a Catholic priest. Upon leaving religious life, he was wild in the streets, protesting wars and seeking a life of experience. He holds a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts and an M.F.A. from the University of Washington. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Hudson Review, Ploughshares, New England Review, Rhino, North American Review, Writers Almanac, Raven Chronicles, Seattle Review, Jeopardy, Prairie Schooner, Cirque, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cascadia Review, and elsewhere. He is the founding editor of Empty Bowl Press, publisher of the Dalmo’ma series of anthologies among other titles; former Poet-in-Residence for the Washington State Arts Commission, the Skagit River Poetry Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and a retired English Instructor for Mount Vernon High School. His reviews and essays have appeared in Pacific Northwest Review of Books, Raven Chronicles, Port Townsend Leader, and Book/Mark Quarterly Review. In addition to seven chapbooks, he has published three full-length collections of his poetry: The Straits, To Curve, Moonlight in the Redemptive Forest, and a book of essays: Way Out There/Lyrical Essays. He has been awarded by the Washington State Arts Commission, Seattle Arts Commission, Artist Trust, Fulbright, and the National Endowment of the Humanities; recently, Pleasure Boat Studio published his translation of Alter Mundus by Italian poet Lucia Gazzino. Of a Feather has just been published by Empty Bowl of Port Townsend, a division of Jack Estes’ Pleasure Boat Studio, New York City.  Look for his work in the upcoming Cave Moon Press Anthology Footsteps to benefit homeless veterans.

Michael Daley-Site

“Society is like a stew. If you don't stir it up every once in a while 
then a layer of scum floats to the top.”—Edward Abbey

The Senator was protecting, like a she-bear, 
that revered Dr. K., whose damned body, 
well past ninety and rotting in his slippers,
shuffled into the Senate to advise a subcommittee
underwhelmed by chanting protesters —
a Greek tragedy, his body wheeled in 
from a movie set—Dr. Strangelove.
The Chorus chanted names of countries
where Henry’s legacy arose, where 
countless human animals boiled in
or fled our poisons, our strafing, 
boots we crept in to make them safe.
When they chanted the name, “Vietnam,”
the Senator cried out. Once I had assumed 
he spoke with my own heart.
I lied to myself that he knew the city streets,
could have been my classmate,
might have walked the old neighborhood,
struggled with us, knew what work is. 
I blinded myself to his history of privilege.
He’d been chained to a wall in the prison hut, 
so why bow to this war criminal, 
frail seer led to testify before Creon
while the Chorus in pink was ushered offstage?
They may have felt it savage, compassionless, 
to hiss at the defender of détente, intervention,
hemisphere hegemony, and overthrow—once,
the brain of Nixon, our blood line to the Hapsburgs. 
When the Senator spewed his regal curse, 
no one spoke. Protestors had defiled his hall,
calm proceedings gave him meaning, 
an imagined hurt to Henry was a breach. 
But the Senator hurt me, ratted my trust. 
Not by sicking his slick and frothing dogs
to slime the staircase, but he whipped me 
with my own guilt, that beautiful 
inward machine. Pop indoctrination 
and other Media distractions halted, even
the Prisoner of War unmasked as drone
of the dictator class, outraged, was silenced
for the moment, and those clowns, the Chorus
whispered: “War Crime War Crime War Crime.”
Picture her swept into the arms of the suited guard, 
the Code Pink girl who rushes Henry
shaking like Voodoo her shiny handcuffs, 
the nauseated wife behind Schultz
flanked by two daughters in a trance—
the girl shoved away, pumps above the wreckage
of Kissinger her scrawled sign: “Cambodia,” 
the Senator cursing her, cursing all of us
dredges up from his own inmost filth:
“Get out of here, you low-life scum.”

Across the lake in the darkness
is a light where a man sits at a table
eating a breakfast of oatmeal
and writing his first poem of the day.
When he looks into darkness
he knows the giant cedar is out there,
and the lake—last night a tub of dull moon—
hasn’t dried up, or changed
in any way apparent or important.
He sees one light, only this one,
where someone at a kitchen table
(with oatmeal, and scribbling)
doesn’t trouble what lies
in the dark between us.


From Michael's last poem we question the role of the poet.  When he writes in the third person the reader is forced to sit at the table next to him and watch him scribble his poem.  So it begs questions. What is the color of Michael's shirt?  When you sit the reader down at the breakfast table in prose lines they start to look around the room and wonder.  Is Michael's oatmeal instant?  Does he use Folger's coffee, like your grandmother, or Starbuck's blend?

In the end, does your poem make you the lead singer of an 80's power ballad? Does your voice carry the poem or is it the images that carry the poem?  Michael has put us in the middle of that question but like all master poets he ultimately points us back to the words. The last line makes us forget that we don't care that he might wear a green, plaid Pendleton shirt with his DeKalb baseball cap tilted just a bit so he can concentrate.....write your poem.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press March 2016

FEATURED POET: Betty Scott is a poet and essayist. In the 1980’s she wrote a bimonthly column about family life for The Wenatchee World and this began her writing career.  

She was born in Santa Barbara, CA, and earned a BA in English Literature from UCLA, a teaching certificate from Central Washington University and a MA in English with a writing emphasis from Western Washington University.

As a longtime board member for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Whatcom County, she provided education and support for people encountering the complexities of our costly mental health system and for those who have lost loved ones to suicide. 
A former instructor at Whatcom Community College and Bellingham Technical College, Scott devotes her retirement years to writing and editing. She has several manuscripts waiting for publication. 

In her collaboration with singer, songwriter JP Falcon Grady, Scott searches for social systems that lead to nurturing and protecting children, adults and the earth. Together they perform poems that support bio diversity, as the earth’s blue print for its land, air, and water.  Beneath human constructs of science, politics, sports, philosophy, business, and religion is an abiding energy, a living spirit, often described as love, faith, forgiveness and generosity. In her poems, Scott imagines how a diversity of human responses can lead to a healthier planet. When they perform together, JP Falcon Grady sings the italicized parts of her poems. 

An Earth Year Blessing was previously published in Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington, edited by Luther Allen & J.J. Kleinberg. 
The Playground was presented to participants at the 2013 Chuckanut Writers Festival in Bellingham. 


No man a salt shaker
No woman a sugar bowl

To pour, use up
And put out to pantry

No more darting of eyes
Or senator sneers

When Mama’s Boys pilgrim
To Great Mama’s pastures

To dance, step by step
With maternal wisdoms

To tango and waltz
Arms and heads in precision

Each footfall a grace
Restoring Earth’s faith

Mama’s troupes swaying
Singing and praying: 

Single Mama, Widowed Mama,
Earthly image of Great Mama

Hallowed be your name
Holy Sustainer of Life

Your people tend on you
Beloved Great Mama
On earth as we hope in heaven.

Betty Scott


In writing, it’s a well-known fact: 
letters are lizards with legs and tails
syllables bite like alligator teeth
and words blossom like magnolia trees.

No lie: in swamps and fields, the wind strokes
and ripples the tiniest wild flower
that under the light of a microscope
lives as complex as an orchid or rose.

It’s a fact: the cells of grasses and leaves
resemble living streams and arteries.
In marshes, hollow reeds are fiddle strings
that shadow the shallows and hallowed-winged.   

It’s the truth: people swarm, sip, and worship
our playgrounds during festival seasons 
as the heirs to brass notes float, fall, and rise
beneath the gumbo of moon and moonshine.

While the infinite and minuscule breed
while lizards, swamps and birds battle to breathe
the heated U.S. is rooted and twined
to nature’s rhythms and rhymes. Who rests?

Betty Scott


It’s the truth: people swarm, sip, and worship
our playgrounds during festival seasons 

As Daylight savings pops up and people swarm malls like ants on a doughnut where do you find yourself with the poem?  People who love words find time and watch the people in the mall.  What do you do?  Is there just that one gesture?  That one phrase?  

We have cell phones to take pictures.  We need poets to write the words.  Write your poem!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February 2016

FEATURED POET: Nathaly Rosas Martinez was born in Minnesota, in the U.S., though she grew up in Mexico where she lived in Veracruz for thirteen years. In 2014, at age fifteen, she moved back to the U.S. only with her mother. She speaks two languages, English and Spanish. In her country she saw all kinds of food because her family likes to cook things like tacos, salsas, sopes, chileatoles y picaditas and they also like to cook new things. She hopes to go back to her Mexico in 2016. She is proud of her culture because she thinks that in her culture there are many special traditions. She would like to share her experience of being Mexican with the world. Two of the most important goals in her life are to go to college in Veracruz where she grew up and to support her little brother to achieve his dreams. Nathaly believes that food is our identity, our force, and that our cultural food is our principal source. She believes that each bite of our food has memories of our nation and that food is an important piece of our traditions. Nathaly also believes that food is the blood and soul of our ancestors and that every culture should be proud of their food. And she believes that making food is an art and a way of expressing our memories.

Nathaly Rosas Martinez is part of the book Stories of Arrival: Refugee and Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project.    

Check both of our poets from the last two months out Here


I remember my father’s hands
Putting a red apple every morning
In my hands,
Wishing me a good day at school
Gently wiping the apple for me,

Sometimes I thought his hands had the scent
Of the perfume of my mother
She hugged me every time
Before going to work.
Sometimes my father’s hands felt like the soft hands
Of my brother holding my hand
On my way home from school.

How many memories can save a simple apple?
Sometimes the world revolves
Around this small apple
and we don’t know it.
This apple sometimes cries with me
When I remember all the things
That makes me smile
like the tiny arms of my brother.

Remembering the people in my life
my father, my friends, my family

they are waiting to be alive again.

Nathaly Rosas


I am from a place where
The food is an art and every bite
Is a spicy piece of our culture
Where the smells call you to enjoy
And the flavors take you to your memories
I am from where the trees grew up everywhere
Guayabo, naranjo, alamos,manzano and palmera*
And the children take the special gift from them
Naranjas y limas, limas and limones **
Where the grocery stores have fresh items
Epazote, elotes, manzanas,melones y granada ***
And bring us an exquisite dinner
Kneading and rolling, combination of flavors
Flavors that our indigenous ancestor gave us
Combination of oils and onions always mixed
Picante y salado **** gather and dance together
Our food is not only food
It’s a way to communicate our feelings
It’s a way to talk with our family
It’s our history, our identity
But now everything is not the same
The tortillas smell different, the salsa is not spicy
Our special gifts are mixed with chemicals
Our food enclosed in a plastic prison
Gradually, we will lose the essence even in our countries
The hands of our grandparents and our people were killed
The food of my family was thrown into garbage
The cookbook of my grandmother was burned
There is still hope
The gentle hands of my mother
Every day serving food
Our kitchen table will be in another country
And the people who ate with us
Are no longer here
But we will return to gather
In the morning lights
And the darkness nights
At the strong sound of the rain
My aunties give this wisdom to my cousins
My parents give it to my brother and me
to conserve our specials secrets.
* Fruit trees
**A pun in Mexico
***Epazote, corn,apples, melon and pomegranate

Nathaly Rosas


Our food is not only food
It’s a way to communicate our feelings
It’s a way to talk with our family
It’s our history, our identity

Nathaly teaches us that to create in any "genre" whether it be cooking, writing poems or sewing a quilt that we use it to communicate.  Any of these shared art forms are a special code within themselves as much as the heroic couplet or the iambic pentameter.

Use Nathaly's lesson to us here to practice your poem.  "Our commute is not only a commute..."
Write your poem in a rain puddle.  Write your poem on the wind. Share it with someone today.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 2016


These next two months we are privileged to feature student poets from the Stories of Arrival: Refugee and Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project.  

Check them out Here

 Dal Lam Kang (Kang Pu) was born in a small village called Tuimang, part of the Zogam region. He is sixteen years old and he has three brothers and one sister. They are still in Burma. He grew up knowing all about farming because that was his dad’s work. Kang Pu speaks five languages including Zomi, Mizo, Burma, Malaysian and English. He lived in Tuimang for thirteen years and then moved to Malaysia in 2011. Kang Pu could not get a good quality education in his country, because his family didn’t have enough money to pay for school. When he was ten years old his mom passed away. After that, he wanted to start to find money; that’s why he went to Malaysia. In Malaysia, Kang Pu got a job at Pat Kin Pat Sun Cafe Chinese Restaurant. During that time he was only thirteen years old. It was truly hard for him to depart from his family, because he is the only one who went to Malaysia by himself. Kang Pu came to the United States in 2014, with his uncle. His memories of foods from Burma are corn, vegetables and potatoes. Foods that he always remembers remind him of his country and his mom. Kang Pu often thinks of his mom when he feels hungry, but he knows he cannot let those memories make him too sad. In the future he wants to become a businessman to help his family, and to help his country to become a peaceful country. Kang Pu is thankful for the government in the U.S., because he can get a free education. He really wants to achieve his goals. He believes that his father’s vege porridge was amazing; it brought all of his family together at meal times. Kang Pu can’t forget his country’s food and traditions because his cultural foods are already in his blood. Also, food can save people and food reminds him to honor and keep his culture. Kang Pu believes everyone can do one thing in their life that they dream of, because everybody matters and everybody has different skills.

My Mother’s Kitchen
Kang Pu

When my mom cooked it smelled of sweet wintertime cherries,
of a solitary forest with rain falling
and it smelled like the murmur of a lonely bird, singing.
I picture the spherical smoke rising from her kitchen
it was like the sound of sleep at night,
it was like arriving home safe and sound
the sounds of her kitchen were peaceful
I still long for the laughter of those family meals
we all waited for that table, my mom’s table
how she prepared every family meal
this is what I still long for
so often I remember my mother
nothing can take her memory away from me
it is truly difficult that I have departed
from my motherland

and from my mother’s kitchen. 

Three Countries Home
Kang Pu

In my life
I have called
three countries home
Burma, where meat is fresh
from the forest
where the hunter focuses on his target
not for sport, but for survival .

Fruit, we only ate after
we pulled it gently from the tree,
the spots covering its flesh,
holding it together,
vegetables were from the garden
with the redness of the soil,
like before the sunset,

when mom came back
from the garden
before she arrived
I knew she was on her way
as the winds called
the smells of basil (Leemmui)
and the strong smell of earth’s spices
around my home.
I felt mom’s love,
I put my worries
into her pocket
to rest my love
in her heart.

In my new city in Malaysia 
meat was not fresh
just pushed into refrigerators,
cooked, it was covered with sauce
but the blood still showed,
thick like syrup
so I recoiled
I didn’t know
how I could eat it,
it reminded me of war victims .


We live in a modern era where Billy Collins or others can gain national attention and get national awards.  We have university programs dedicated to different styles.  Those pressures 

But we live in the tradition of Emily Dickinson.  We live in the tradition of Han Shan (Cold Mountain)  Poetry for them was about clarifying their interior worlds with a few words on the page or on a cave wall.

They were arriving at a new place and documenting that important fact.  In the end we are all students arriving.  Write about food.  Write about arriving.  Write your poem

Saturday, November 28, 2015

November, 2015

FEATURED POET: CRYSTA CASEY Crysta Casey (1952-2008) was born in Pasadena, California. She graduated from The State University of New York, Stony Brook, in 1976, where she was one of the founding members of The Women Writers Workshop. After college, she became the first woman hired by the City of Irvine, California, in Parks and Maintenance. In 1978, she enlisted in the all-new voluntary military, serving in the U.S. Marine Corps as a journalist, then as a self-declared “Resident Poet” until her honorable discharge under medical conditions in 1980. She moved to Seattle, Washington in the early 1980s, where she studied with the poet Nelson Bentley and collaborated with Esther Altshul Helfgott on the It’s About Time Writers Reading Series. Her first collection of poetry, Heart Clinic, was published in 1993 (Bellowing Ark Press). In 2004 she received a Hugo House Award from Richard Hugo House, and, in 2006, she was a finalist for Seattle Poet Populist. In 2010, Floating Bridge Press brought out a chapbook of her work, Green Cammie. Rules for Walking Out (Cave Moon Press, 2016) was the last manuscript Crysta completed and approved before her death at the Seattle VA in the spring of 2008. Crysta’s papers are housed in the University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections. 


The flag at the park hangs
half mast. I asked a young mother
pushing a child on a swing,
“who died?”
“Orville Redenbacher did,
but I don’t think they’d fly a flag
for a popcorn man.”
I spoke with another mother
in the parking lot,
“Maybe it was
for the elections yesterday?”
she said, “That could depress
some people, but I don’t think
they’d lower the flag.
Somebody famous or local?”
I listened to the radio, waiting

for the news.


Jim is a Vietnam Vet. He watches television
and sleeps all day. He eats sporadically.
He doesn’t get out much, but one day decided to go
downtown to the V.A. Regional Office
and make sure he was going to get an American flag
on his coffin. The clerk took down his name
and service #. He came back and said,
“I’m sorry sir, but according to our records

you’re already dead.”


One's-Self I Sing

Walt Whitman
One’s-Self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.

Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say the Form complete is worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.

Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form’d under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.

??? What changed about poetry after Whitman?  The Modern Man is here and in Whitman's footsteps we confess to the world our personal interiors.  Crysta's interiors were clear as a mountain lake.  They just happened to be of battlefields forgotten

Is that the interior of a Buddhist landscape painting?  Does that interior reflect an urban cacophony?  A battlefield?  

Write your poem.  Take this time around solstice to light a candle and put words to the page.