goes into the making
of a poet
as flour goes
into the making
Poetry is an act
At age eight I wrote something amounting to a prose poem. My brother Richard, 19, offered to type it—I still have that piece of paper—and said he thought I might be a born writer. This was a great compliment. He had already earned significant attention for his own writing. A few months later, Richard died in a car accident. But his words had planted a seed.
My first published poem appeared in my mid-20's under the name Marjorie Strauss. Since then I have seen around 450 more published in both print and online journals including POET LORE, BARROW STREET, COMMONWEAL and SOUTHERN POETRY REVIEW as well as anthologies, a blog, a calendar and a poster. I have several collections out (see COLLECTIONS) from small presses. I consider myself neither successful nor failed but widely unknown (I wrote a poem with this as a title).
Sufficient Emptiness, Deerbrook Editions, 2021 - $18.25 - available
through the press and Small Press Distribution. Amazon
will carry it too.
Oncoming Halos, Kelsay Books, 2018 - $17
Seven Parts Woman, WordTech Editions, 2016 - $16
Living With It, Wampeter Press, 1983 - $7
Refuses to Suffocate, Blue Lyra Press, Delphi Series volume VII,
available through the press - $12
Flying on One Wing, Samaritan Health Services, 2006
The Complete Tishku, Lone Willow Press, 2005 - $7
-- $5 if you order another book as well
Birds on Discovery Island, Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2005
-- chapbook contest finalist
Faith in the Color Turquoise, Pudding House Publications, 2003
Cave Poems, Lone Willow Press, 1998
Tishku After She Created Men, Lone Willow Press, 1996
Prices listed for those still available through me. $3 shipping fee for one book, $4 for any higher number. Signed copies sent upon request. Oncoming Halos is also available online through Kelsay Books and Amazon; Seven Parts Woman, through me as well online.
Sufficient Emptiness is available through Deerbrook Editions and Small Press Distribution. Others turn up online as used books.
-- Zoom reading to be hosted by Blue Marmot Studio in Allenspark, Colorado, to launch Sufficient Emptiness, 6/12/21, 6:30 PM, MST
-- book celebration for Oncoming Halos at the Denver Woman’s Press Club, 1325 Logan St., Denver, CO, 2/9/19
-- read with Christine Weeber at the BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St., Denver, CO, 3/2/19
-- featured reader at Waldport Library, 460 NW Hemlock St., Waldport, OR, 4/8/19
-- read at the Blue Marmot Studio Gathering near Allenspark, CO, 6/22/19 -- and again, 8/17/19 -- featured reader, 11/23/19
-- featured reader at Las Animas Grill, Trinidad, CO, 10/4/19
-- featured author in the Blue Heron Review, 10/19.
-- featured reader at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Denver, CO, 12/7/19
I've read mostly in café settings and bookstores, also colleges, churches, private homes. I do vibrant readings, but not what I'd call "performances." I also do occasional workshops and one-on-one critques for a small fee and enjoy doing both.
from Sufficient Emptiness, Deerbrook Editions, 2021
Here’s the version I was given.
The sky began to grow stiff.
Scientists had offered warnings.
But someone was paid to track
their findings back through
early research, and hit delete.
Others were paid to saw a hole in the blue
which when brittle grew bluer,
jewel-toned, enchanting –
like soul-glow in the very old
who have found peace.
The cut section fell forward, lay
flat as a bulldozed angel.
The jagged cavity
permitted soft rain to fall
over the king’s favorite golf course.
I know much of this
may be hard to believe
because when most of us
peer toward the horizon
as if for an evening star
all we see through that hole
is a small object, perhaps a thermostat,
mounted on a brick wall.
The New Chickens
eat melon, salmon, steak.
They’re bred for olive green
and porcelain blue eggs, beyond
delicious, containing the secret to…
what was it? The article I read
scared me out of remembering.
Some new chickens wear diapers.
Children cuddle them indoors
where rooms grow larger
and become remote.
When I was a child, my neighbor
kept chickens. He let me stand
in their dim, shabby, stinking coop
throwing handfuls of dried corn.
Not one missed out, ever,
on the cluck-flutter rush.
Oh, I was a powerful child.
The spring equinox: a balancing
of lamplight and untethered fact.
For the next little while
we must proceed
with less and less access
to story; the brightest hours
will keep the new chickens at our door.
Gray day about to close early.
Car truck van bus mini. Sidewalk with a few last
traces of ice. No one on the opposite side
or near the cross street or standing at a corner.
The walk signal flashes the red palm
of its long-fingered hand. Its little white
walking person. Red/white, red/white.
Brightening now in the charcoal-soft hour.
Remembering Leonard Cirino
During one of his episodes he plucked out his right eye
believing it had caused him to sin. That’s how devout
the young man was.
Afterwards he could see in the dark.
Poetry, sensing the presence of a coffee pot and ashtray that
belonged to none other than Leonard, began forming at night,
slipping through slapdash insulation and cracks under doors whose
weather stripping had peeled away. He’d caress
each detail towards completion.
The soul needs only one eye.
Leonard Cirino’s was made of glass.
I fall from my own hands.
There and Here
I had a father who had no guns. Nor did he use the word guns.
Each autumn he’d tell me, Don’t play in the woods.
Wait until hunting season ends.
Once, before I was born, my father bought a house.
Our home on a hill at the edge of the woods.
These days, at the edge of my life, there’s a man who says,
You should write a poem about that. Not the home I mentioned
or its autumns. He wants me to write about misplaced keys,
seeing my dentist, vegetable stands by the roadside in Oregon.
Good subjects, I reply. You need to write your own stuff.
My childhood home was not for sale
when my father purchased it. He knocked on a door
and encountered the owner, gun in hand, a solitary senior
who was soothed into listening, laying aside, letting go.
The seller had never lived anyplace but there.
The man who wants me to write his poems has lived in two places,
there and here. There, everyone in town kept guns but no one
dreamt of shooting a neighbor. Here, it’s populous and sprawly
with artists and other god-only-knows. But he likes me.
Or did until I mentioned how my father conducted business.
Two Places called me divisive, stormed off to his cabinet to brood.
I wish he’d unlock it and lift out his fear, stock by barrel by gleam.
It’s good to forge poems from the molten steel of fear.
I go visit the man at the edge of the woods
who has never lived anyplace but there.
My Writing Perspective
Fine poetry of any era and style adds to the world’s available beauty. And beauty is essential to the life of mind, body and soul, not to mention our relationships (I use the term broadly).
The best poetry comes from everything that plays into who the poet is. A gift and passion for language, of course. Childhood experiences. Formal education. Dream life and the life of one’s unconscious. Religion/spirituality. Rejected religious experience. Racial and ethnic background. Marriage. Work. Political convictions. Eroticism. Exposure to literature and art. 24/7 news impact. Social media activity, travel, and any other influences. Beyond all this, there’s the mystery at the core of our identities, something we can never quite account for or pin down.
In the United States we tend to compartmentalize experience – separating the spiritual from the erotic, the political from the personal, etc. – so that we can move forward productively or at least efficiently. We like to feel we are in control. This is something to watch out for when writing poetry. The result can be a poem that feels less than fully alive and fails to reverberate with love. By “love” I mean what the Greeks called agape. Allowing agape to be present when we choose to write about pain, especially any kind of injustice to ourselves or others or both, isn’t easy.
While there are journals that prefer no political poetry, no religious poetry, no erotic poetry, or no something else, I hope that all of who I am is brought to bear in every poem, as I’m sure many do. But our cultural tendency to compartmentalize, which differs from consciously choosing details to use or not use in a poem, is one reason I often delight in poetry from other places. Many foreign cultures don’t seem as attached to separating the personal from the political from the spiritual from….
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