Sunday, February 4, 2024

Sandra Doller : [I wish that I knew what I know]




I wish that I knew what I know
Rod Stewart knows now, I wish
I had his everything, especially
when he dolls it up for me, a flick
of a bang to the sky. How did Rod
Stewart get the way he got and how
does he not stop being that way.
Rod Stewart is a stand in for our
mother issues and our lack of
understanding of corporate
taxation rates, historically
speaking. Rod Stewart is everyone’s
worst vision for their child, like
who cares about the genetic
test that will tell me if I’ve got
a thriver or not, what if I have
a Rod Stewart inside of me, growing
now as I speak, knowing what he
knows now that he didn’t know
then that we know he knows now
when he wasn’t even beginning
to know it. Sometimes at the base
of my skull I can feel Rod Stewart’s
comb plucking a tangle, teasing
a feather from my hairs. Rod
Stewart on a tire swing, Rod
Stewart inside a tunnel, Rod
Stewart watching TV, Rod
Stewart driving on the wrong
side of the street in another country.
Rod Stewart is not me and I am not
him yet, but I am still growing and I
do not yet know what I knew then
when I was watching the news a lot
in bed. There is no way Rod Stewart
has a normal sized bed just like there
is no way some very large men have
regular sized toilets. There are just
some things you know and then there
are just some things you don’t.





The difference between the news
reporters and the internal

documentarians is one of

Let’s say I want this
out there now.

Like already.

Let’s say I wish I’d already
said it.

Had it eaten, consumed, drunk
for breakfast.

Let’s say good and done
and onto the next.

Out with the

A paragraph is not a problem
a poem is.

It’s not like I sit around
yesterday’s news.

But years gone by, remember
paper yellows.

Please deliver me the 1930s
New York Times by noon.

Do you read the news and think
you can have some impact on the news.

Are we talking affect or

Do you read the news

We watched for four
years until we stopped.

We kept waiting for it to
stop don’t stop.

We are trapped like tele-
grams from another time.

We hear people talking
out the window and

go to close it.
We do.

We are trying to record.

I have spoken to my colleague in this way
and received no reply.

I am worried there will be
mandated togetherness.

I heard you had a party
and it was inside.

It is possible the entire house
is being eaten.

Forces seen and

I need to be un if I am to be
at all.

I am talking career ending
in a way no one

from the future
will understand.

Maybe I mean
the past.

Maybe the future will be all
about career ending.

Before you take a step
take a leap.

Dummy didn’t make the thing
you think he did.

He lifted up his arms
and we all felt it.

We all felt good
for him.

To leave behind his scandal
of trees.

He levitated and orbited around
the driveway for a while.

Until his career
really took off.

Without commentary
or favor.

He was a success
of his own kind.

Never wrong,
always night.

Gilded a little
among the palms.




Sandra Doller is the author of several books of poetry and poetry-adjacent things including Oriflamme, Chora, Man Years, and Leave Your Body Behind, plus a smattering of essays, collaborations, and translations: The Yesterday Project, Sonneteers, and Mystérieuse. Her newest book, Not Now Now, is forthcoming from Rescue Press. Doller is the founder of 1913 a journal of forms/1913 Press, where she remains l'éditrice-in-chief, publishing poetry, poetics, prose and else by emerging and established writers. The recipient of various honors including the Paul Engle-James Michener Fellowship and the Anomalous Press Translation Prize, she lives in the USA—for now.


Laura Walker : Process note #32

The 'process notes' pieces were originally solicited by Maw Shein Win as addendum to her teaching particular poems and poetry collections for various workshops and classes. This process note and poems by Laura Walker are part of her curriculum for her upcoming class for Maker, Mentor, Muse and for her poetry classes at the University of San Francisco. Thanks for reading.




I started writing psalmbook the way I usually start a new series: casting about, writing in response to various catalysts, at first hopeful, and then increasingly anxious to find that thing that will move me— looking for a trapdoor to fall through. This time I found it in the Book of Psalms.

The rhythms and cadences of the King James Version of the Bible, their lull and pull, are evocative for me in a way few things are. I grew up in the Bible Belt, but my dad was a proselytizing atheist. Sitting in church, I desperately wanted to enter the world of prayer and faith that seemed to mean so much to my friends and grandparents. But I never could, quite. The ethereal, transcendent language of the KJV, though, transported me, and it also became suffused with all the yearning I felt— perhaps still feel— that yearning of an outsider wanting in. 

I wasn't familiar with the Psalms. When I started to read them, I was startled by the voice I found there (and I’m not assuming anyone else hears the same voice). I'd been expecting a confident song of love and faith. Instead, the voice I heard was overly insistent, desperate, sometimes vindictive and violent, and full of yearning. It was raw and vulnerable: torn between a very present, sometimes violent, sometimes bewildering world, and a very absent, sometimes violent, sometimes bewildering "you". It seemed to me to be declaring its faith even as it faced the impossibility of faith. I'd found my trapdoor.

The process of writing psalmbook was a new one for me, even though I’ve written several books that respond closely to a text (follow-haswed is a collage of found language from a single volume of the OED; story reinhabits fairy tales; bird book borrows from a bird guide to North American birds; etc.). Each page in psalmbook responds to a single Psalm; sometimes I would return to the same Psalm multiple times. In the case of psalmbook, though, it felt less a collaborative collage or creative translation, and more like a kind of channeling. Each day, I would choose a Psalm and read it over and over, until I felt the language start to give and flood and the floor drop away. Then I would write, letting the voice I heard move through me.

I was fairly uncomfortable throughout. I was uncomfortable with aspects of the voice I heard; I was uncomfortable bringing “another voice” across and onto the paper; I was uncomfortable with a personal and idiosyncratic reading of a sacred, communal text; I was uncomfortable with the religious overtones, and uncomfortable with the secular ones. All of those things, of course, also kept it generative— like so many others, I am moved by the awkward, the difficult, and the problematic.  Even so, it took me several years to come to terms with it.

In the end, I think the book became a kind of prayer for me— prayer as plea— with all its contradictions, its very human fallibilities, its wrestling with how to relate to the world and to the divine, its desire to see and be seen, its frustration and tentativeness and confusion, and above all, its yearning—to be heard, to believe, to connect.




psalm 17




a sentence converges        


                                    this equals that      you visit me

                        in the night


          you will find nothing


i will not speak



there is a narrow path
that widens just beyond
i have never strayed


secret places
of children
and salt





psalm 84 





i need
birds and hosts
some kind of color


to wait for you


we wade in pools and egrets
everyone appears
but you


i will cut myself into a thousand pieces
and give you one — i will stand in your door
and ignore the tents —





psalm 12





i am thinking of faithful
of frail and unanointed


your name a broken door


you are silver    
boiled seven times
a pure thing hung round your neck

like an antidote to fever :






Laura Walker [photo credit: Theo Lemkin] is the author of six books of poetry: psalmbook (Apogee Press, 2022), story (Apogee Press, 2016), Follow-Haswed (Apogee Press, 2012), bird book (Shearsman Books, 2011), rimertown/ an atlas (UC Press, 2008), and swarm lure (Battery Press, 2004), and two chapbooks: genesis (above/ground press, 2023) and bird book (Albion Books, 2010). In 2023 she joined Apogee Press as a co-editor. Laura grew up in rural North Carolina and now lives in Berkeley, California, where she teaches poetry, keeps bees, and wrangles chickens. 




Maw Shein Win’s most recent poetry collection is Storage Unit for the Spirit House (Omnidawn) which was nominated for the Northern California Book Award in Poetry, longlisted for the PEN America Open Book Award, and shortlisted for CALIBA’s Golden Poppy Award for Poetry. Win’s previous collections include Invisible Gifts (Manic D Press) and two chapbooks: Ruins of a glittering palace (SPA) and Score and Bone (Nomadic Press). Win’s Process Note Series features poets and their process. She is the inaugural poet laureate of El Cerrito, CA and teaches poetry in the MFA Program at the University of San Francisco. Win often collaborates with visual artists, musicians, and other writers and was recently selected as a 2023 YBCA 100 Honoree. Along with Dawn Angelicca Barcelona and Mary Volmer, she is a co-founder of Maker, Mentor, Muse, a new literary community.


Saturday, February 3, 2024

rob mclennan : SO TOUGH, by Jared Stanley

SO TOUGH, Jared Stanley
Saturnalia Books, 2024





The fourth full-length poetry title by Reno, Nevada poet Jared Stanley, following Book Made of Forest (Salt, 2009), The Weeds (Salt, 2012), and EARS (Nightboat Books, 2017), as well as the first I’ve gone through, is SO TOUGH (2024), winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. Organized as a book-length suite, each page offers a further untitled poem in a sequence of eight line accumulations (but for a singular, one-line poem, mid-collection) that provide a rhythm of meditative slowness. “The green catch of light your eyeglasses get,” the opening poem offers, “basic enthusiasms where the flowering frasses nod in the wind // another cruel ongoingness // fell asleep with a cock-shaped bookmark on my eyes // the sea is off somewhere by itself // previously unimagined inhabitants of spume // blood in your mouth did you taste it [.]” The pacing of this meditation is impressive, holding a steady line through simultaneous layering and pause, a clear breath exhaled in a thoughtful sequence of phrases. “Some half-remembered folk melody cries out,” Stanley writes in the second poem, “for gallon jugs of green river wine : // tastes like grass, fucks you up, cold on the tongue [.]” Through seventy-eight poems and seventy-eight pages, Stanley works across the small details of the natural landscape, articulating the arbitrariness of man-made boundaries between human activity and nature, managing to slow down time enough to hold a sequence of moments, turning each one over before the next one lands. Through SO TOUGH, Stanley offers moments across thinking, geography and landscape, providing them shape and tenor, both attention and as warning against what might irrevocably be lost.

So alone, so tough

so weird at home, so weird in public

on the street a whiff of body spray

blows in off a stranger’s shoulder

the look is human, nameless to nameless

the texture of a luxuriant shoe

if I keep my droplets to myself maybe

Wednesday will be a consolation






Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. His most recent titles include the poetry collection World’s End, (ARP Books, 2023), a suite of pandemic essays, essays in the face of uncertainties (Mansfield Press, 2022) and the anthology groundworks: the best of the third decade of above/ground press 2013-2023 (Invisible Publishing, 2023). His collection of short stories, On Beauty (University of Alberta Press) will appear in fall 2024. He is currently pushing a fundraising campaign as part of the rebuilding year for Ottawa’s VERSeFest poetry festival.

Cary Fagan : On Fifty-Two Lines About Henry






In early 2021 I was missing the pleasure of writing in cafés.  And so I went down to the basement, found some plywood and a 2x4 and some dark stain, and built myself a little table.  I put it in the corner of my small study, on a little rug, beside a photograph of two dogs wrestling, one looking into the camera, in a forlorn rural landscape. (Many decades ago, as editorial assistant on the Canadian Forum, I was given the task of returning unsolicited artwork from an overflowing file.  The photograph had no name or address attached and so I kept it.). Here was my own little spot, which I named the Lonesome Dog Café.

The table wasn’t large enough for a computer but only for a manuscript and pen or a notebook.  Wanting to inaugurate it with some new bit of writing, I opened a fresh notebook and sat there wondering what to write.  I don’t remember how I came up with the idea of writing individual sentences to capture a character but after that first session I decided that I would try and write five sentences about “Henry” every day.  I had no design or plan, no sense at the start of who Henry might be, nor even the tone that I was hoping for. Very quickly he became this rather hapless, naïve man with grandiose and unrealistic plans and a flawed understanding of other humans. Many of the lines seemed rather comic to me, although I wasn’t trying for humour. Perhaps comic in an uneasy way.  I didn’t overthink it; I just let the lines come.

If I could put my hands on the notebook, I could tell you how many lines I wrote in the end.  Just under ninety, I think.  Later I typed them on my laptop, revising along the way.  And over time I played with the lines, adding a very few, cutting out more, changing the order, until I finally arrived at Fifty-Two Lines About Henry. Not poetry, or a short story, at least to me.  Just its own modest thing, a small portrait of a dreamy, mildly deluded man who, if life is kind, won’t do too much harm to himself or anyone else.





Cary Fagan’s first chapbook was published in an edition of six copies, all typed by him.  Some forty years later he is a co-editor of the chapbook house, espresso.  He also publishes books for adults and kids, most recently The Animals (Book*Hug).  He lives in Toronto.

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