Tuesday, July 16, 2019

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press July 2019

FEATURED POET: Claudia Castro Luna was born in El Salvador. She received a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine, an MA in Urban Planning from University of California, Los Angeles, and an MFA in poetry from Mills College. She is the author of Killing Marías (Two Sylvias Press, 2017) and the chapbook This City (Floating Bridge Press, 2016). In 2019, Castro Luna was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. She currently teaches at Seattle University and serves as the poet laureate of Washington State.


A country with borders of bread
A country where laws taste like milk
A country where I can walk without fear
A country where walls don’t bring tears
A country where hope is not fiction
A country where huger is thin
A country where children don’t rot in jails
A country whose flag no one needs to defend
A country whose heart is its coin  
A country where war is naught
A country where days begin with song
That, is where I want to belong


I want full citizenship
when I die
none of this
you are legal
only when convenient
when cheap labor is wanted
when votes are sought

In Death’s camp
there is no Temporary Protected Status
DACA, J-1 or H-2 visas
there are no second chances
short sentences, pardons,
no permit renewals,
no political expiations
No. Dead is dead.

As ghost, I’ll own
the full spectrum of me
if I desire a foul green mouth
then so be it
I’ll make myself visible and invisible
whenever I want
be evil, if I so choose
or tender, mother to newborn tender

Ah, when I am dead as dead
boneless, toothless, wordless
wondering somber valleys
among drafts of shadows
when my pride is but an emerald
streak in Quetzal’s royal feathers
and my cry lodges in mockingbird’s throat
what mother of love will I then be!

Better in death to inhabit all of me
than half dead living, living afraid of living
Yes! I want full rights for the ghost of me
not just a temporary worker permit
it shouldn’t be that hard
for in life, I’ve never seen
anyone queuing up for the privilege
of crossing to the other side


Prompt tickler I.

"for in life, I’ve never seen
anyone queuing up for the privilege
of crossing to the other side"

How much punch is in your punchline?
Good or bad, the prosaic nature of poetry in our era begs an ending.

In a joke it makes people laugh.  While that is an option, there are other days it just needs something else.  Read her poem again and see how you can build one of your poems to this powerful a punchline.

Prompt ticker II.
"A country..."
"I hear America singing..." (Walt Whitman)

Analyze the boiled down nature of this poem and compare it to Whitman's view of our world in this geography.  How can you use repetition in just as powerful a manner with a tightened set of metaphors.  Look at how carefully Claudia pivots with "where" and "whose" to bring variety to the ideas, while giving us a constant chant of hope, pathos and desire after Whitman's world.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press March 2019

FEATURED POET: BETTY SCOTT'S poems are influenced by California, Oregon and Washington landscapes. She earned degrees from U.C.L.A., Central Washington University and Western Washington University and taught in community colleges before retiring into her daily writing life. She enjoys editing her daughter’s novels as well as poetry and essays by colleagues in Bellingham, WA. She is currently writing a third collection of poems and a book of essays


On a walk
as blue jays squawk
I find a wad of money

and in a crack
between cement blocks

a purple and white pansy


In the wake
of black and white
hatred rising

social justice out-
shadowed by slogans and lies
most nights I sit

with a plate of olives
tangy black ones, buttery
Castelvetrano greens

and hold words close
believing in poems as prisms

that shine with light

Do the seasons shock you every time they arrive?  We had a great deal of snow in February, and now the robins and tulips are popping up.  Seems like a miracle every year.  Take a time to breathe in.  Write a poem in sharpie on the inside of a box. Pack a care package in the box up for someone in need and send it along.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press February 2019

FEATURED POET:  GERRY MCFARLAND acquired his MFA in creative writing in 2011, served seven years on the editorial board of Floating Bridge Press, taught psychology, human service and writing at University of Phoenix until he retired to write full time. His poems have appeared in Contemporary American Voices, Bayou, Crab Creek Review, Crucible, Limestone, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Sanscrit, Zyzzyva, and the journal War, Literature and the Arts, among others. He was a finalist in the 2014 december Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize, and his chapbook, Gunner, was a finalist in the Frost Place.  His latest collection The Making is soon to be released by Cave Moon Press


She will toss his ashes in the Mekong,
The black grain an arc from her furrowed hand.
That seemed generous. When I am gone
My body will go to ruin in the land,
The soil in a garden comforting.
I will grow there, while my wife weeps
Above the decomposing birth of things.
I will lie in my ungenerous sleep.
I don’t believe in spreading myself thin.
How would they ever find me? And who would try?
My travels done and every place I’ve been
Just punctuation in the dust when I die.
For myself, I need to find one place
With language carved in stone above my face.


While I was seasick my first months
At sea, the Boatswain’s Mate said:
S’all in ya haid, boa!
So I learned to right myself at sea:

When the starboard beam
Of the USS King slipped down, swollen
As a pot-bellied sailor, my dungarees
Flagged in the groaning gusts,

I remained upright starboard aft
In the hard turn, work boots
Black wedges flat on the non-skid
While the gray planet shifted rudder,

The wind veered and the splashing
Vessel sloped into the long turn,
I leaned into the curve of the earth
And put my face into the wind.

Colon or not to colon, that is the question.  Unless it is dire emergency during a colonoscopy, the question really doesn't have too much weight...unless you are a poet.  In translations of poetry from different languages, punctuation can create meaning or detract, but the decision on whether you use a colon or comma needs to have one person in mind- the reader.  

So just like you would wrestle for days over the correct modifier or metaphor, punctuation should take on the same consideration.  Yes, there are different schools of thought, but many of the arguments boil down to how much salt you should put in the stew.  In any case don't let the questions freeze you up.  Write your poem.  Draw it with a stick in the snow bank, take a picture and post it on Instagram.  

Sunday, December 9, 2018

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press December 2018

FEATURED POET:  GREG SIMON was born in Minnesota, but has spent most of his life in and around Portland, Oregon. He was educated in Seattle, Iowa City, and Palo Alto, where he studied
creative writing with a number of outstanding poets, translators, and fellow students. He is the co-translator, with  Steven F. White and Christopher Maurer, of Federico Garcia Lorca's Poet in New York, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1988. He is currently employed in the wine industry.

2  .  24  .  12
You cannot choose what music
you will hear. It comes fully
dressed, ready to be undressed,
resembling freshwater waves,

or mist from a morning’s rain.
It seeks your skin, rough or soft
or darkened by thin blue smoke
from a fire we built beside

a lake. The goddess and I
did not make love in a tent
below Mt. Olympus.

She wrapped herself completely
in a tight silky cocoon
I could not


03  .  06  .  12
Symmetry, a poet once
wrote, symmetry. And lions.
And panthers. We must change our lives.
But we must live our life,

even if the power of it
rips into us like a coal miner
advancing along dark veins
in the center of the earth

with nothing on his mind
but lust. I want that harsh fire.
I want my center to burn

with what I feel about her
inside me, inside me like
whirling knives, and smoke, and fire!

In Greek mythology, Eurydice was an oak nymph or one of the daughters of Apollo. She was the wife of Orpheus, who tried to bring her back from the dead with his enchanting music. (Wikipedia)

These poems are a series of sonnets dedicated to her, and Greg does an incredible job of embodying the love poets pour onto the page.

Intriguingly, he sets up a masterful collection of sonnets.  The origin of the word sonnet comes through Italian for "song" and originally from Latin from "Sonus" which gives us "sound" and thus connects poetry in the Western tradition to a deep sense of the musical.  Thus, Greg's poetry about the wife of Orpheus, the renowned poet and musician, are matched with the form he chose.  

Form: Although fallen out of fashion in the 20th century with free verse, there is still a modicum of matching the form to the message.  What vessel (form) are you using for the sweet wine (flavor) of your poem?  Greg matches the vessel to the wine, and the sweetness of his love for the wife of Orpheus comes through in his poetry.

Friday, September 28, 2018

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press September 2018

FEATURED POET:  BETTY SCOTT'S poems are influenced by California, Oregon and Washington landscapes. She earned degrees from U.C.L.A., Central Washington University and Western Washington University and taught in community colleges before retiring into her daily writing life. She enjoys editing her daughter’s novels as well as poetry and essays by colleagues in Bellingham, WA. She is currently writing a third collection of poems and a book of essays.


I wake at dawn to sun and ice
roadway diamonds.

In my yard two deer, displaced-thin
nibble on clover.

I too am rail thin, a short path away
from a milestone birthday, and in

this quiet moment, this devoted stretch
of first-waking thoughts

electricity and love spark.

I listen kindly to circuits.


A dark crow squawks outside his bay window
As I enter Dad’s house this lonely day.
He lies so still, his face a worn pillow.

In his silent home, belongings echo.
“I’m here, Dad,” I call from the entry way.
A dark crow squawks outside his bay window.

In his room, silence moans without sorrow.
I reach for his shoulder, call out his name.
He sleeps so still, his face a worn pillow.

I touch his lips and nose to see breath flow.
Must you be so blissful, I dare not say.
A dark crow squawks outside his bay window.

“I’m a great sleeper now,” he wakes and boasts
“Practicing for the big sleep … on its way.”
He lies so still, his face a worn pillow.

Yet I’ve seen inside the beak of a crow
Blood red and cawing love’s longings and pain.
A dark crow squawks outside his bay window.

He lies so still, his face a worn pillow.

,,,his face a worn pillow.

The master stroke in Betty's poem, here is rhyme and repetition.
Since Whitman and Cummings, we have been averse to these elements in poetry.

So to evoke a picture of her father with this simple phrase, Betty has beautifully used rhyme for the modern ear with a metaphor.  The metaphor leaves us at the bedside of a loved one with love, grief and power.  Brilliant.

Try to re-write Betty's poem within the context of your own life.  Share your pain through rhyme and repetition.
Write the poem on a fast food wrapper from a restaurant you visited on the way to the hospital.  Keep it in your pocket for later.  Be present with the people you love.

Friday, August 10, 2018

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press August 2018

FEATURED POET: Lauro Flores is Professor of Chicano and Latin American literatures and cultures at the University of Washington, Seattle. During his tenure at the University of Washington, he has been Chair of AES, Director of the Center for Chicano Studies, Chair of Latin American Studies, and Special Assistant to the Provost. Winner of a 2007 UW Distinguished Teaching Award, Dr. Flores has been visiting professor at Stanford University and UCLA.

Childhood Trip
           (Dream of Las Canoas)

Do you still remember, dear Alfredo,
that secluded green place nestled
atop a mountain, reclined on its foothills?
Do you still preserve the memory
of your first childhood trip over the grayish
slopes of the sleeping volcano?

Las Canoas, remote village near
the old hill where my ancestors settled,
the place where, on a clear day,
your grandfather, destiny’s rails,
an intrepid short-distance train
and three noble mule drivers took you.

On that concealed hillside,
you discovered kindling for the first time,
and saw the meandering flight of the swallow;
there, you felt, also for the first time,
the fragrance of the woods and spring,
and the persistent perfume of pine resin.

There, you counted the resplendent stars;
you gazed at the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper
until those droning voices,
modulated into muffled harmony,
and the brindled purring of the cat
finally closed your eyes until the following day.

Párvulo viaje

                (Sueño de Las Canoas)
¿Aún recuerdas, mi querido Alfredo,
aquel verde paraje recogido
en un cerro, reclinado en sus faldas?
¿Aún perdura en tu alma el recuerdo
de tu párvulo viaje por las pardas
laderas de aquel volcán dormido?

Las Canoas, rancho remoto, vecino
del viejo cerro, allí donde moraron
mis ancestros, y a donde un claro día
tu abuelo, los rieles del destino,
un intrépido tren de cercanías
y tres nobles arrieros te llevaron.

En aquella recóndita colina,
descubriste el ocote por vez primera,
y viste el vuelo errante de la golondrina;
allí sentiste, también por vez primera,
el aroma del bosque, de la primavera,
y el porfiado perfume de la trementina.

Allí contaste las fulgentes estrellas,
contemplaste el Arado y el Pequeño Cazo,
hasta que las voces aquellas,
moduladas en su sorda armonía,
y el abarcinado ronroneo del gato
te cerraron los ojos hasta el otro día.

How does your poem hold up in another language?
As an experiment, translate your poem into another tongue.
(Even if you use Google translate)
Show it to a friend.  Does it hold the meter?  Is that relevant?

Looking at your poem in another language forces to you to see 
if you are relying on linguistic tricks, (like rhyme) or thematic units.
Neither is good or bad.  It just offers a different path.  Write your poem!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press July 2018

FEATURED POET Finn Wilcox worked in the woods at the upper elevations of the Olympics and the Cascades with Olympic Reforestation Incorporated, a forest workers co-op, for twenty-five years; he planted well over a million trees. He rode freight trains for several years to learn about the life, journeys, and history of the once-respected American Hobo. His first book, Here Among the Sacrificed (Empty Bowl, 1984), includes the poignant images of legendary Northwest photographer Steven R. Johnson, depicting people in boxcars and railroad yards who appear in Finn’s memorable poems and stories. In addition to the full content of Here Among the Sacrificed, Wilcox’s latest collection, Too Late to Turn Back Now contains his poems from Nine Flower Mountain, detailing travels in China; Lesson Learned, a group of love poems; and Not Letting Go, a suite of new poems and stories. With Jeremiah Gorsline, Finn edited WORKING THE WOODS, WORKING THE SEA: An Anthology of Northwest writing (Empty Bowl, 2008). Finn and his wife Pat Fitzgerald live in Port Townsend.

Walking the flats—
through brushed huckleberry
and tall, tough salal—
I find the place
we spread my mother’s ashes
nearly a decade ago.

You can hear the rolling ocean
just beyond this sandy hump
that rises in the silvered-light
of drift-logs,
in thin coastal fog.

I hope she’s happy here.
She was more than just a good woman.
Always that glitter of faith rendered
from a heart
big as these old-growth spruce.

Before I leave,
I make her a headstone

of the perfect blue sky,
above a perfect blue sea

with all its deliberate beauty.


My dog Walt
steps onto his bed
fourteen and deaf as a stone
paws at it thoughtfully
turns in a circle
three times
before setting
his boney ass down

happy as a two-peckered toad.


Serendipity.  As I try to offer encouragement about writing poetry, Finn tells me about his fourteen year-old dog.  At my feet is my son's fourteen year-old dog.  We are dog sitting. So below here, you have one way I have to learn from the masters.  Try to imitate what they do, as flattery and a way of learning.  It works at the Louvre.  All apprentices have to sweep the floor and imitate.  Find your favorite poem and imitate the master.

After Finn Wilcox

My son's dog Selah

shivers, and lays down
fourteen and terrified
the gunshots across the street
tangle her at my ankles
my shadow
before she lays down
her blinking eyes weary

Without a word, I look down, 

Your name means, "Pause"