On The Poetry Prompt: Cow Ponds and Glass Frogs

Given that my entire upcoming chapbook from Finishing Line Press, Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a Pandemic, came from using the NaPoWriMo poetry prompts during National Poetry Month, I do have a few things to share about using the poetry prompt. And Split Rock Review has just published a new poem, Octopus on a Sea Dock, that uses a whole mix of made-up poetry prompts like “use something from the day’s National Geographic” post, among others. . .

It’s a useful tool, so I took Split Rock Review up on its offer to publish On Cow Ponds and Glass Frogs: Using the Poetry Prompt. You can read it at Split Rock! And, yes, I had fun with it!

Split Rock Review

A Little Bird Photography News in a Poetry Blog

Three years ago, my daughter and son-in-law gave me a special Christmas gift: a new camera. Since that day, I’ve been haunting rivers, woods, and fields for birds in a new journey, one beautiful way to look up and see the world new. Now, thanks to Green Briar Review, I can share my first cover photo of a Heron in Winter.

White-Eyes by Mary Oliver for the Holiday

gulls over the reservoir

In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.

So, it’s over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he’s done all he can.

I don’t know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—

which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.

Poem from Poetry Foundation

SunLit Interview: In “Slow Arrow,” Kathryn Winograd wove threads of her mother’s voice

I’ve been waiting for this. Right at the moment when we all went into lockdown at the start of the pandemic and my mother would begin a series of emergency room visits that led finally in just a few months to the hospice, my book, slow arrow: unearthing the frail children, came out. My mother never got to read it. It was one of the saddest times in my life. The book went on to win a bronze medal in essay for the independent publishers book award, a prize that put me next to lia purpura, who won the gold medal and is one of my favorite essayists. I was thankful to do this interview, which brought me back to my mother and those trips we made across teller county. I can still hear my mother, Ohio native of beautiful red and orange trees, complaining in fall: “What, another yellow leaf?” This is an interview about the journey of one book and the love for a mother.

Slow Arrow BookCover

You can read an excerpt of Sky Glow here.

Octopus on a Sea Dock: New Poem at Split Rock Review

this lovely image popped up from Split Rock Review on Facebook
with the link to my poem

So another prompt-inspired poem, this one from an April 2021 National Poetry Prompt at NaPoWriMO:

“Go to the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and choose a word to work with.” I chose “onism”: awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience, which seemed apropos for that past year’s solitude. And then I thought about imagination and memory and went places I never expected, certainly one of the joys of writing poetry.

Octopus on a Sea Dock

It floated out from a sea bucket
into the silver spilt water
of the sea dock we’d come to visit,
so quiet at our feet
that the fishermen nearby were oblivious,
their fishing poles . . .

Read the rest here at Split Rock Review


Pre-orders for Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a Pandemic are open until November 29. Flying Beneath the Dog Star was a semi-finalist for the Finishing Line Press 2020 Open Chapbook Contest. The chapbook, fingers-crossed for a lightening of the shipping boat snafus, comes out at the end of January 2022.

Zoom Reading Oct 21st, 7:00 PM (Mountain Time)

Hey, Come Zoom with Me! On Thursday, October 21st, starting at 7:00 p.m. (mountain time), I’ll read from Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a Pandemic along with short story writer Claire Boyles, who will read from her new book of linked short stories, Site Fidelity. Register below in advance to get the Zoom Link! Many thanks to the Loveland Poet Laureate Program for sponsoring this reading.

REGISTER FOR THE ZOOM HERE: >>>> Click the blue link.You are invited to a Zoom meeting. When: Oct 21, 2021 07:00 PM Mountain Time (US and Canada) Register in advance for this meeting:https://us02web.zoom.us/…/tZYpd… And many thanks to all of you who have pre-ordered Flying Beneath the Dog Star. (Preorders help the Finishing Line Press Run. https://www.finishinglinepress.com/…/flying-beneath…/

Autumn Migrations: A Poem

Monarch Butterfly on Rabbitbrush KW

I found this butterfly along Redtail Lake in the Rabbitbrush. It reminded me of a poem I wrote a long while ago on my own small family’s migration. Believe it or not, it won the 2011 Writers Digest Non-rhyming poetry competition, my thousand dollar poem … a poem I treasure, regardless.

Migrations

to Mira

At Monterey Aquarium, we watched mackerel
school where light refracted the world over our heads—
sky, people, that brooding mimetic moon—bent

impossibly over the silver minions, their shifting
music we couldn’t hear, their long silent rhythm, form
shifting into formlessness, the way you do now,

your face flushed with the boy’s mouth until I can barely
touch you as I once did, my loneliness no longer allowed
to break like water against the frail vessel of you.

There is no justification in this, as in the way starlings leave
the long darkness of our fall, buoyed in the lifting
wings of each other beneath the stars’ compass,

our yellow cottonwood speaking the language of wind
between us and this leaving until their shadow that finally
is the fall breaks over us. So long now, since I touched

the braille of your skin, the late moon keening her vowels
through that early window.  Human frailty, I think, loving
that naming of you without the tongue, your body —

            shadow  light  shadow

already breaking across my hands into nothing that stays.

My book, my book, my beautiful book!

Am I allowed to say I love it? I’m going to (:

I wrote the poems for Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a pandemic during National Poetry Month during such a terrible time and found such peace in my search for some kind of faith in a shaken world where my only “knowns” were a cabin porch, a spill of morning sun, and a nuthatch at the feeder. And I wrote it in honor of my sister. And then it was picked up by Finishing Line Press as a semi-finalist for FLP’s 2020 Open Chapbook competition.

And now it’s pre-publication sale time until November 20th and the sales determine the press run. If you think you want to order this book, please! do so through this direct link at Finishing Line Press: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/…/flying-beneath…/

“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” ― Vincent Willem van Gogh

book cover and author

To the Swallow This Spring at the Nest Box

I own nothing of you
nor this leaf that shivers
into a half-bud above
the phlox and blue flax
that burrow with me
into this old winter grass.
Yet how much I yearn
for your blue-struck wing
like an arrow over a sun-
struck river, as if it were some
prayer to fit between
my strange and lonely palm,
so hollow its feathers,
so frail I could breathe through them,
so iridescent the sky
you harbor down that
whoever hammered this wood
together did so
in such hurry, in such
love, that even the nails
were left unflattened. And now
your nestling waits
at this world someone
cored into the box for it
to see: a little
knot of light,
a song
to dip and break against.

                        published by Tiny Seed Literary Journal

On Writing Grief and the Braided Essay

to HJ Burt, 1929-2020, photograph by KW

All this year, I’ve been thinking about how to write about grief. Kafka said, “Everything you love, you will eventually lose.”  So it seems exactly right that just moments ago the grief counselor called from the hospice where my mother died.  Checking in on me. Their last call–Sunday the first year anniversary of my mother’s death.

My mother prepared me for her death for many years—it was the thing she wanted.  But I did not realize how grief entwines with regret entwines with guilt each time we are at the cusp of sleep, faithless and alone.  The writer Bruce Ballenger says about writing grief, “ Add a sentence that says ‘I was devastated.’ Most of the time this falls flat because it states the obvious. . . perhaps writers should trust that a situation that calls for sentiment can express it most strongly by withholding feeling.” 

All I could think of was the “devastated.”

I thought to go back to my writing, what has always sustained me, but I didn’t know what to say, how to say it.  Steve Harvey, creator of The Humble Essayist, says that as writers  “what happened may matter to us but it is lost on us if we do not transform it into art.”  Yet how do we shape raw grief into art, into something outside the grieving body, an artifact to be softened, hardened, handled, polished?  

The summer my mother died, my daughters and son-in-law went hiking in the San Juan mountains to an alpine lake with the young son of one of my oldest friends.  My son-in-law loves nothing more than to talk dares, though at thirty, he is long past the expectation that anyone would take him up on one. But, of course, the just-twenty-something in response to a ridiculous dare tore off his clothes, climbed a boulder, and then cannonballed into the air before disappearing into the still freezing waters of an alpine lake no one could even see.

 “Did you at least check to see how deep the water was?” my friend later asked her son.

I had always thought of the braided essay  as the way to “luck” into the deep image, into deep meaning, that poet’s way of totally giving in to the powerful prayer of language.   It’s a cannonball, I thought, a leap into the unchartered, a faith that we will sink into the unknown and then pop out again, blue sky and air in mouthfuls. 

Brenda Miller, best known for her braided essays,  says that at some point-some crucial point-we need to shift our allegiance from experience itself, to the artifact we’re making of that experience on the page. To do so, we mustn’t find courage; we must, instead, become keenly interested in metaphor, image, syntax, and structure: all the stuff that comprises form.”

I had never fully believed that the braided essay gives the writer courage to write what they think they cannot write. Or that it is the way to move out of the freewriting of grief into something of beauty, grace, purpose.  That is until I found this one sentence in my journal and so begins my own cannonball:  

My mother came from a family of floaters. “Your grandmother could float in a pond on her back for hours and sleep,” my mother would tell me the childhood summers I floated  with her in the green pond behind the Ohio farm house . . . A year now and I am looking for metaphor everywhere.

                                                            From Floating

Morning on the Cabin Porch

My beautiful visiting bee this morning reminded me of this poem I wrote last spring. It will be part of my chapbook, Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a Pandemic, to be published this January by Finishing Line Press.

The hummingbird mistakes
me for a flower: something
half-wan and camouflaged
in a wild iris shirt.
The aspens riddle my slant
of sun like snakes of shade.
Far off,  past the pines,
a meadowlark trills
from the draw where, yesterday,
I found bear scat fresh,
flies swarming it.
I walked, clapping my hands
at the dark of woods
until they hurt.
Now the air stirs.
A hummingbird zips
past the porch, circles,
hovers, a tiny god at my face.
I am all blossom and sepal,
sweet petal and wing dust.
And at my feet, a tiny bee
crawls for the first time.