Monday, February 29, 2016

Life of a Poet ~ Colleen Redman

Oh, we have a wonderful feature for you this week, my friends. Buckle up,  as this time we're flying cross-country to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The song is running through my mind as I type.  We're going to pop in on the talented Colleen Redman, who writes at Loose Leaf Notes, a wonderful mix of poetry, prose, photos, and incidents from her jam-packed-with-fun life. I am so looking forward to this! Let's hop aboard. Keep an eye out for the peaks!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Poetry Pantry #291

The Adirondack Mountains (2)
by Steve King

"Like most of the Adirondack’s backcountry rivers, the Oswagatchie is an artery 
of twists and turns, and deceptively strong currents."

"Gentility still has a thumbprint on New York’ north country.  This bench at the boat launch would be a nice place to waste some time, but not on this rainy and overcast morning at Nick’s Lake."

"The Moose River, near Old Forge, looks placid and inviting from this put-in, but once you’re on it, you must give the river your full attention."

"I could have sworn there was a tree here…Remnants of a very old evergreen on the Bog River near Low’s Lake."

Greetings, Friends!  This Sunday we are featuring a second set of pictures of the Adirondacks.  Beautiful photos, Steve!  Thank you.  Stay tuned here in the Pantry, as Sherry will be featuring Steve in a few weeks. (And as time goes on you will also see some more photos by him.  Smiles.)

Be sure that you don't miss Rosemary's "I Wish I'd Written This."  She features 'Do Not Shake the Bridge' by Anne Elvey - a Melbourne, Australia, poet.  I love it when Rosemary features people that she is so familiar with like this.

This week Sherry is featuring an interview with a woman who generally shares with us on Sunday - one who is usually one of the later posters rather than one of the earlier ones.  You will have to return tomorrow and be surprised.

For Midweek Motif this week Sumana wants us to begin a poem with the lines "A flower was offered to me...."  She explains it more in her prompt, but if you are writing ahead of time that is an important detail to remember.

So do you have spring fever yet? (Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere!) Admittedly I have a bit of it, making it harder to sit down and write poetry, I think. Sigh. Thus, Susan, I apologize for not being able to write to your excellent prompt at Midweek Motif this past Wednesday. However, admittedly the weather  right now here is changeable.  Some days I feel the spring in the air & some days the chill of winter.

I will be glad to see what each of you shares today!  I will see you on the trail as I visit others...  It is nice to be a part of such a wonderful community of poets.  Have a good day & a good week ahead.

Friday, February 26, 2016

I Wish I'd Written This

Do not shake the bridge
By Anne Elvey

A long bridge of books and paper
spans the gorge. You have gone
ahead and vertigo is a hand clasped
round my ankle, with the gravity of flesh

suspended in air. Old books
are roped together. Their hard spines
dig into my soles. The side ropes
are the papier-maché of bad poems.

A heart worn on a sleeve. At my first
launch I left behind
a layer of skin. On my hand is
the scent of words. It has rained lately.

The wind bites. Your back is almost
out of view. I want to sit down –
a small huddle in the swinging air –
and let the paper decompose and dry

to scatter on the wind. Vertigo climbs
me hand over hand. I have not looked
down to see the roaring chasm nor up
to the eucalypt sky. Across are the rocks

of Cataract Gorge. I follow my eyes
along the backs of my hands, knees
abraded by each volume’s edge.
There you are! Shrinking the distance.

From Kin (Parkville, Vic., Five Islands Press, 2014)
Previously published in Going Down Swinging
Used with permission.

I was bound to love this poem, having grown up in Launceston, Tasmania and experienced many times the vertiginous walk across the suspension bridge over the Gorge. The poem is metaphorical too, of course, which I don't overlook. Let's just say that for me it is a particularly powerful metaphor, as I know in literal terms what it felt like when some teasing friend or cousin, or even uncle, shook the bridge. Obviously this poet knows the sensation too.

Anne Elvey is managing editor of Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics. Her poetry collection Kin (Five Islands Press, 2014) was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize 2015. 

Her new chapbook, This Flesh That You Know, international winner of the Overleaf Chapbook Manuscript award, was published by Leaf Press (Canada) in 2015. 

In 2016, she is chief editor at Melbourne Poets Union ( 

Anne holds honorary appointments at Monash University and University of Divinity, Melbourne.

We have never met in person, as it is a long time since I lived in Melbourne, but we have friends in common, one of whom gave me a copy of Kin. It's thoughtful poetry of quiet beauty. It doesn't jump up and shout at you, but I find myself returning to it over and over, and the experience deepens each time.

'The book has three sections which, loosely speaking, are personal, ecological and spiritual by turn' – as poet Geoff Page notes in his review in The Canberra Times. He admires the music of her poetry, its 'extreme lyricism', her characteristically 'unobtrusive shift from the natural to the spiritual', and says, 'Elvey is the mistress of the telling phrase'.

Kin is available from Five Islands Press:

This Flesh That You Know is available from Leaf Press:

If in Melbourne visit Collected Works Bookstore:

Poems and photos used in 'I Wish I'd Written This' remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Gorge photo by Peripitus, licensed under Creative Commons

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Martyrdom / Witness

You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become 
more powerful than you could possibly imagine. 

From the 2014 film Selma

Midweek Motif ~ 
Martyrdom / Witness

Here's a very surprising fact! It surprised me, anyway, and led to this prompt.  According to Wikipedia: 
In its original meaning, the word martyr, meaning witness, was used in the secular sphere as well as in the New Testament of the Bible.[1] The process of bearing witness was not intended to lead to the death of the witness . . . .

Your Challenge:  Perhaps you have witnessed or experienced witness that needs a poem? 
Write a new poem for this prompt, letting the tone of the poem reveal your positive or negative feelings about martyrdom and/or witness. 

From the Gallery of 20th Century Martyrs at Westminster Abbey—l. to r.Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Rev. Martin Luther King, Archbishop Oscar Romero and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Martyr

Indicative of the passion of the people
on the 15th of April, 1865
Good Friday was the day
    Of the prodigy and crime,
When they killed him in his pity,
    When they killed him in his prime
Of clemency and calm—
         When with yearning he was filled
         To redeem the evil-willed,
And, though conqueror, be kind;
    But they killed him in his kindness,
    In their madness and their blindness,
And they killed him from behind.
              There is sobbing of the strong,
                   And a pall upon the land;
              But the People in their weeping
                                    Bare the iron hand:
              Beware the People weeping
                   When they bare the iron hand.
. . . . (Read the rest HERE at The Poetry Foundation.)

was it so I could
never say
across a courtroom
that man, the one
standing there

was it so you could
walk among us again
as if you had shed
the body that did
those things

was it because you could
not bear
my pupils so huge
they would have swallowed you
my whites like flayed kneecaps

when you pressed down
to singe them back
into my skull they were softer
than you expected
you had thought them
diamond hard
weapons turned on you

was it so you could
imagine a time
when you would be human
again among humans
that you had to leave
some of us

Source: Poetry (March 2014).
Used by Permission

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below 
and visit others in the spirit of the community.

(Next week, Sumana's Midweek Motif will be A Flower Was Offered to Me. )


Monday, February 22, 2016


I have been waiting for this day for a very long time, my friends. I have been stalking our fellow poet and witchy woman, Magaly Guerrero, for a considerable time, hoping to feature her for your delight. And now here we are! Yay! You likely have encountered Magaly at her two blogs, Magaly Guerrero (Dark Fiction. Dark poetry. Balanced witchy living), and Magaly Guerrero's Pagan Culture, or at our sister site, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, where she links up regularly. Draw your chairs in close. There be spirits here. Our tea may be steeped with a little of Magaly's  magic potion, and don't be surprised if you overhear an incantation or two. When two witchy women get together, anything can happen. For certain, there will be cackling!

Sherry: Magaly, yippee! Here we finally are! Tell us where on the planet  you make your home, and what is wonderful about it?

Magaly: I live in New York City, with a Piano Man, a Little Princess, and an urban garden that always threatens to take over our apartment… especially when the Wheel of the Year turns towards the cooler months. I’m minutes from Manhattan and right across the street from an enormous park. This is perfect, since I would lose my wits without a healthy amount of forest nearby… and horses—which I never, ever, ever feed while their caretakers are not looking *cough*. 

Sherry:  A wonderfully exciting  place to live! Tell me, as one who lives vicariously if, indeed, I live at all, do you have a favorite place to go in the Big Apple?

Magaly: Actually, Sherry, I don't think I have a favorite place to go in New York. I go wherever the things I like to do are happening: I enjoy readings, book sales, conventions, fresh fruit markets...So you see, not as interesting as you might think. I go to shows my husband is playing or conducting. I enjoy Shakespeare in the Park in summer...But all those things are just things I would do any place I might live.

Sherry: It sounds wonderful, and so does your husband. What a talented pair you are! I so enjoyed your recent post about your Piano Man, entitled Finger-Feeding Souls. Do check it out, kids, it is a veritable feast to read!

Magaly, I know you as a writer of poetry and prose. When did your journey as a writer begin? And which is your first love? 

Magaly: My first love is prose. I began writing fiction in my very late twenties. It was sort of an accident. One night, while I was on Active Duty working as a case manager for Marine-4-Life (now the Wounded Warrior Regiment), a nurse came to get me because one of my Marines was having a bad night. His leg had been amputated recently, and the pain medications were not doing a great job. I ran to his room. 

He was enraged, but not at the pain. After much encouragement (and whispered oaths of secrecy), he told me that he had accidentally ripped the last few pages of the dark urban fantasy romance he had been reading and now couldn’t tell how the story ended. It was after midnight. I couldn’t get a new copy for him. I asked him about the plot. After I got the major points, I went back to my office and wrote an ending. He loved it. The smile on his face filled me with joy. I’ve been writing fiction ever since.

Sherry: What a marvelous story! I am so enjoying this conversation.  As, of course, I knew I would. What do you love about poetry?

Magaly: I love writing poetry for the same reasons I'm crazy about prose: the two take imagination and life, morph them into tales, and birth them safely into the world. For me, words are therapy, problem solvers, rewards... I write stories - shaped as poems and as fiction - to celebrate my happy moments, to release physical pain, to make sense of difficult issues, to soothe emotional hurts, to play... I love reading poetry because a good poem makes me think, and thinking is a really good thing.

Sherry: What is that song? "You're so young and I'm so old...." Enjoy that faculty while you can, my friend. I've passed my Best Before date. Cackle. What do you love about blogging?

Magaly: My favorite thing about blogging is that it offers a way to form relationships with people I might’ve never met otherwise. And you know what? That’s a gift.

Sherry: I completely agree. Would you like to choose three of your poems and tell us about each one?


Why I always will?

Because my lips nearly burst
with the rage of my own
and you came and kissed them
into song…

without trying to change

Magaly: I wrote this one after a really upsetting phone call. I remember ending the call, and telling my husband, “I’m going to write something mean.”  He smiled at me, kissed me, and said, “Go write a little decapitation therapy, love.” The comment made me roar with laughter. And my husband’s attitude, the way he knows me, inspired “Always.”  

Sherry: I love “you came and kissed them into song.” Someone who loves without wanting to change you – that’s a gift, too. One of your recent poems resonated very deeply with me. Let’s take a peek:

“On the Wheel of Living and Dying”

Another year’s swallowing its own tail,
riding helter-skelter on the Wheel
of living and dying and living again…

getting me from dizzy to sozzled
on the juices of Chaos’ other brother—
you know him,
he’s the calm-camouflaged Catastrophe
fed by society to all its accepting
self-blinded souls.

In spring, I lived content
between happiness and heartache,
soaring over a precipice of brilliance,
thinking, Not my drama.

Then came July’s heat
to sweat a lioness’ dying tears
over a world that screamed,

I waited for the ebb and flow of the status quo
to trip into an endless downward spiral,
where it would choke in stark, tumultuous grief.

But nothing ever changes—Chaos reigns
when we fight the fog while stuck in place.

So I sat through the fall…
on naps, snacks and blogs…
of sweet blood denied,
of poverty-driven chaos,
of fuckin’ hard goings…

Winter slapped me like a sickness—
a pandemic of empowerment and changes
shouting into my skull, “Take control ruthlessly.
Misery doesn’t need more friends. Escape
clouds of barely submerged apprehension.
Tongue kiss enlightenment. Reclaim your belief 
in dirt, in Faerie, in the resurgence of love, in Self!
Devour this creative boost.” 

I am reclaiming my all.

I kissed Gaia with spirit, flesh and bone,
felt my old doors opening,
welcomed the rebirth of inspiration;

I met the eyes of the infant Wheel,
watched them open… open again,
glimpsing the spring of a new me.

Sherry: Wow. Simply: wow.

Magaly: I asked friends on Facebook to share 3-word phrases that described their 2015. This word-baby was conceived by their descriptive trios and birthed by my Muse. I had to play around with the phrases a little… But in the end the entire poem was built from bits of my friends and me. And that thought always brings a huge grin to my face.

Sherry: What an original method for birthing a poem. How cool. Let's look at your third offering, my friend.

“Let’s Make Love and Lightning”

“I wish you’d read The Art of War.”
He shook the remote control towards the Gaza Strip,
which once again, burned the innards of their television.
“Discussing all that fighting madness
might help me make sense of the world and its creatures.”

“We, earth men—”

“And women, dammit! Don’t you ever forget women.
If your tactics leave them unequal, half-wanted or neglected,
I will battle against the misogyny rotting your tongue.”

“Rotting my tongue?”
He had no choice but to attack.
“It was…” he almost shouted, It was just a damn quote
from The Martian Chronicles.
But there was so much fire in those big, beautiful eyes,
so much energy fueling the lashing of his lover’s tongue.
You are ardor made art, heart of my heart.
His husband deserved veracity, alliance, a double shot of hope…

So he placed Bradbury in front of the television,
abandoned the initial scheme,
allowed tenderness to capture and overthrow treachery,
and cited time tattered wisdom (cynicism-free and trueness anew):
“We, earth men, have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things.”

His husband’s vision had gone liquid,
wrung raw by all the non-fiction horror in the Five O’Clock News.
But neither hurt nor social disenchantment could silence the man he married.
“Sleeping beauty,” his husband said, “awoke at the kiss of a scientist
and expired at the fatal puncture of his syringe.”
He picked up Bradbury and caressed his cracked spine with his trigger finger.
“Do you know why I read this novel when you weren’t home?”

“Sun Tzu told me,” he said, flashing the universal conspirators’ grin.
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night,
and when you make your move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

Husband met husband in the middle of the living room.
With Bradbury and Sun Tzu as witnesses, they kissed.
And the words they didn’t speak into each other’s mouths, said,
Let’s make love and lightning, not war or ruin.

Sherry: I adore this poem, the conversation, the caring and, especially, the closing lines. Best antidote to the news I can think of.

Magaly: This was my answer to a prompt that listed 13 words, out of The Art of War, and instructed us to write a poem using some of them. The details of the prompt mentioned current conflicts in Syria, Gaza, the Ukraine… I found myself revisiting news articles on these subjects. I was also rereading The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury, at the time. This piece is a dance between many of the thoughts the experience left in my mind.

Sherry: There is a depth of information and emotion in this poem. I love hearing about the various ways you write poems. No wonder I enjoy reading them so much.

I note you have published three books. What would you like to say about Blooming Howls? It looks fantabulous!

Magaly: Blooming Howls is a very short dark fantasy collection. The “fantabulous!” look you speak of is the artwork of my dear friend, Michelle Kennedy. And it was inspired by a scene that takes place in the first story in the collection.


Sherry: May it sell many copies. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Magaly: I would like to thank everyone, especially you, Sherry, for sharing your words with me and for letting me share mine.  

Sherry: Thank you, Magaly. I am so pleased I finally had the chance to feature you here. I consider it a scoop! 

Wasn't this fun, my friends? Every week, another poet who knocks our socks off. What a lot of talent there is online. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Poetry Pantry #290

Adirondack Mountains - New York State
Photos by Steve King

Evening campsite on Forked Lake.

Dawn at the campsite on Little Tupper Lake.  Every morning, 
this small island was surrounded by mist.

Sunset from the same spot…

Paddling on Bear Mountain Swamp, 
from Cranberry Lake in the Western Adirondacks.

Sometimes the only way to get from one pond to another is by way 
of the smallest rills.  Rough on the boat bottoms, but great for 
the scenery and a sense of isolation.

Good Sunday again, Poets.  I don't know about you, but time really seems to be passing fast.  It seems like only yesterday we were sharing poems here in the Pantry.  Perhaps it is the season of the year that makes time most a little faster (at least for me).  For the past few days we had a tremendous snow melt, and when it is sunny and I can again see the grass (not really green) and the days are getting longer again I have more a sense of hope.  Spring will come once more! Smiles.

Today I am sharing some of Steve King's photos of the Adirondack Mountain area in Upstate New York.  These photos give me a feeling of serenity.   I will continue with more Adirondack photos NEXT week.  Thanks, Steve, for getting our Pantry off to a beautiful start.

If you haven't seen Rosemary's article written for The Living Dead this past week, please do scroll back.  She featured the poem "The Comforter" by Dimitris Tsaioumas, an Australian-Greek poet!  The article & poem are well worth your time to read.

This week Sherry will be featuring another Blog of the Week.  This time the blog of Magaly Guerrero will be featured.  If you enjoy Magaly's poetry here, we hope you will come back Monday and read more!

Wednesday Susan's prompt for Midweek Motif will be Martyrdom/Witness.  Now that you have a 'heads up' we hope you get a head start writing a poem to share with us then.

Now let's share poetry.  Link your poem using Mr. Linky below.  Then say hello in comments.  Then enjoy visiting the poems that others share throughout today and up until noon (Central Time - USA) tomorrow. See you all out on the trail!

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Living Dead

Honouring our poetic ancestors 

The Comforter

By Dimitris Tsaloumas (1921-2016)

So that's how the land lies?
You've no idea how I hurried in this heat
with not a leaf stirring in the poplars
and my throat as dry as a bone.
It's closed; I shut it.
Yes, the window too. Don't worry.
I've a good mind to put you out in the yard
so that he'll find you there, next to the tin-can
with the jonquil, where you can see the shore
crowded with sponge-boats back from Barbary.
All hell's let loose at Rebelos's place
with sponge-divers
chucking their money around by the fistful.
I can hear you. Your voice is a bit hoarse
but I can hear you. And don't turn to the wall
and curl yourself up that way.
You've never been scared of war or woman
in your life. What's got into you now?
It's nothing — you'll see.
He never comes with a taxman's satchel in his hand
or in a gendarme's uniform.
In fact, they say he's rather gently-spoken
so perhaps he'll just sigh a bit and say
come on, Nicolas old chap,
come on, we're running late and ought
to cross the border before nightfall.
No matter how often you take this road
you never get used to it.
You know, he's got his problems too.
I can see you, I can see you —
don't imagine I'd take my eyes off you now
you poor bugger!
And where's that no-good son of yours?
You can bet he'll be coming home now,
as soon as he gets the message,
to rip open the mattress.
Look, I’ll get the woman next door
to light the icon-lamp. I’ll be back,
never fear. I’ll go for a stroll on the beach
and I’ll be back.

From The Observatory. Brisbane, University of Queensland Press, 1985

Today we're revisiting Australian-Greek poet Dimitris Tsaloumas, who was featured in 'I Wish I'd Written This' in October 2012. The poem I chose that time was full of his undoubted love for his adopted country. He also continued to have great love for his native land, despite having to flee it in 1951 due to persecution for his political ideas.

In later life, with the political climate much changed, he spent part of every year back in Greece. He died recently aged 94, having spent his last three years on the island of Leros, his birthplace.

After migrating, he didn't start writing poetry again until 1974, but then went on to have a distinguished career, writing in both Greek and English. Wikipedia tells us that:

Among the many prizes he has received for his writing are the National Book Council Award (1983), Patrick White Award (1994) and an Emeritus Award from Literature Board of the Australia Council for outstanding and lifelong contribution to Australian literature (2002).

My previous column refers you to the article about him at Australian Poetry Library, where you can also read many of his poems. Today I'm linking you to an obituary by Jason Steger, Literary Editor of the Melbourne Age.

Poems and photos posted to 'The Living Dead' for purposes of study and review remain the property of the copyright holders.

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