Archives for category: Women Authors

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BEFORE THE RAIN
by Lianne Spidel

Minutes before the rain begins
I always waken, listening
to the world hold its breath,
as if a phone had rung once in a far
room or a door had creaked
in the darkness.
 
Perhaps the genes of some forebear
startle in me, some tribal warrior
keeping watch on a crag beside a loch,
miserable in the cold,
 
though I think it is a woman’s waiting
I have come to know,
a Loyalist hiding in the woods,
muffling the coughing of her child
against her linen skirts, her dark head
bent over his, her fear spent
somewhere else in time,
 
leaving only this waiting,
 
and I hope she escaped
with her child, and I suppose she did.
If not, I wouldn’t be lying here awake,
alive, listening for the rain to begin
so that she can run, the sound
of her footsteps lost, the sight
of them blotted away on the path.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lianne Spidel grew up in Detroit and was educated at Wittenberg University and the University of Michigan. She is the author of the chapbook Chrome (2006), and her poems have been included in the anthology I Have My Own Song For It: Modern Poems of Ohio (2002). Spidel taught high school for 31 years until her 1998 retirement. She lives in Greenville, Ohio.

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ON THE FIRST DAY SHE MADE BIRDS (Excerpts)
by Diana García

He asked me       if I had a choice
what kind of bird
would I choose to be.
I know what he thought I’d say
since he tried to        end
my sentences half the time
anyway. Something exotic
he thought. He thought
maybe macaw.
That would fit
all loudmouthed
and primary colored
he would think.
(He thinks too much
I always thought.)…
I think
green heron.
You ask why?
Personality
mainly.
That hunched look
wings tucked to neck
waiting        waiting
in the sun
on a wide slab of rock
alongside a slow river
like some old man
up from a bad night’s dream
where he’s seen his coffin
and you say to him
Have a nice day
and he says        Make me
***
“On the First Day She Made Birds” appears in Diana García’s collection When Living Was a Labor Camp (University of Arizona Press, 2000). Read the poem in its entirety at poetryfoundation.org.

Photo: Green heron

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Diana García was born in the San Joaquin Valley, in a migrant farm labor camp owned by the California Packing Corporation. She earned a BA in English with a creative writing emphasis and an MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. She is the author of the poetry collection When Living Was a Labor Camp (2000), which won the 2001 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. García is the director of the Creative Writing and Social Action Program at California State University at Monterey Bay.

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DECEMBER NOTES
By Nancy McCleery

The backyard is one white sheet
Where we read in the bird tracks
 
The songs we hear. Delicate
Sparrow, heavier cardinal,
 
Filigree threads of chickadee.
And wing patterns where one flew
 
Low, then up and away, gone
To the woods but calling out
 
Clearly its bright epigrams.
More snow promised for tonight.
 
The postal van is stalled
In the road again, the mail
 
Will be late and any good news
Will reach us by hand.
***
“December Notes” appears in Nancy McCleery‘s collection  Girl Talk (The Backwaters Press, 2002).

Photo: “Bird tracks in the snow” by Willie, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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A CERTAIN SWIRL
Poem by Mary Ruefle

The classroom was dark, all the desks were empty, 

and the sentence on the board was frightened to 

find itself alone. The sentence wanted someone to 

read it, the sentence thought it was a fine sentence, a 

noble, thorough sentence, perhaps a sentence of 

some importance, made of chalk dust, yes, but a sen-
tence that contained within itself a certain swirl
not 
unlike the nebulous heart of the unknown universe, 

but if no one read it, how could it be sure? Perhaps it 

was a dull sentence and that was why everyone had 

left the room and turned out the lights. Night came, 

and the moon with it. The sentence sat on the board
and shone. It was beautiful to look at, but no one 

read it.
***
“A Certain Swirl” appears in Mary Ruefle‘s collection The Most of It (Wave books, 2008), available at Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Ruefle‘s book Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures, was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism (Wave Books, 2012), and her Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), won the William Carlos Williams Award. Reufle has published ten other books of poetry, a book of prose (The Most of It, Wave Books, 2008), and a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed!, (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007); she is also an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries, and include the publication of A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). Ruefle is the recipient of numerous honors, including an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont, and teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College.

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STARS
by Marjorie Pickthall

Now in the West the slender moon lies low,
And now Orion glimmers through the trees,
Clearing the earth with even pace and slow,
And now the stately-moving Pleiades,
In that soft infinite darkness overhead
Hang jewel-wise upon a silver thread.
 
And all the lonelier stars that have their place,
Calm lamps within the distant southern sky,
And planet-dust upon the edge of space,
Look down upon the fretful world, and I
Look up to outer vastness unafraid
And see the stars which sang when earth was made. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marjorie Pickthall (1883–1922) was born in England but lived in Canada from the age of seven. She was once considered the best Canadian poet of her generation.

ILLUSTRATION: “Crescent Moon with Earthshine and the Constellation Orion” by David Nunuk. Prints available at allposters.com.

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ONCE, DRIVING WEST OF BILLINGS, MONTANA
by Susan Mitchell

I ran into the afterlife.
No fluffy white clouds. Not even stars. Only sky
dark as the inside of a movie theater
at three in the afternoon and getting bigger all the time,
expanding at terrific speed
over the car which was disappearing,
flattening out empty
as the fields on either side.

It was impossible to think
under that rain louder than engines.
I turned off the radio to listen, let my head
fill up until every bone
was vibrating—sky.

Twice, trees of lightning
broke out of the asphalt. I could smell
the highway burning. Long after, saw blue smoke twirling
behind the eyeballs, lariats
doing fancy rope tricks, jerking silver
dollars out of the air, along with billiard cues, ninepins.

I was starting to feel I could drive forever
when suddenly one of those trees was right in front of me.
Of course, I hit it—
branches shooting stars down the windshield,
poor car shaking like a dazed cow.
I thought this time for sure I was dead
so whatever was on the other side had to be eternity.

Saw sky enormous as nowhere. Kept on driving.
***
“Once, Driving West of Billings, Montana” appears in Susan Mitchell’s collection The Water Inside the Water (Wesleyan University Press, 1983).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Susan Mitchell grew up in New York City and now lives in Boca Raton, Florida. She has a B.A. in English literature from Wellesley College, an M.A. from Georgetown University, and was a PhD student at Columbia University. She has taught at Middlebury College and Northeastern Illinois University, and currently holds the Mary Blossom Lee Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University. She has published poems in literary journals and magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares, and The Paris Review. Her poems have also been included in five volumes of The Best American Poetry and two Pushcart Prize volumes. (Source: wikipedia.org)

PHOTO: “Montana, Big Sky Country” by Sherri Jo, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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LIGHT-YEARS
by Hester Knibbe (Translated by Jacquelyn Pope)

It’s a beautiful world, you said,
with these trees, marshes, deserts,
grasses, rivers and seas
 
and so on. And the moon is really something
in its circuits
of relative radiance. Include
 
the wingèd M, voluptuous
Venus, hotheaded Mars, that lucky devil
J and cranky Saturn, of course, plus
 
U and N and the wanderer P, in short
the whole solar family, complete with its
Milky Way, and count up all the other
 
systems with dots and spots and in
that endless emptiness what you’ve got
is a commotion of you-know-what. It’s a beautiful
 
universe, you said, just take a good look
through the desert’s dark glasses
for instance or on your back
 
in seas of grass, take a good look
at the deluge of that Rorschach—we’re standing out there
somewhere, together.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hester Knibbe’s books of poems include Oogsteen (2009) and Bedrieglijke dagen (2008), both from De Arbeiderspers. She received the A. Roland Holst prize in 2009.

PHOTO: “Desert Snow” by Wally Pacholka/Astropics.com, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Note on photo: Constellation Canis Major with the brightest star of night sky, Sirius, shines above Southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park (December 2008).

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WHITE-EYES
Poem by Mary Oliver

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.

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ORION THE HUNTER
by Grace O’Malley

He stands in my doorway
like a cross.
The hunter has come down.
He walks me under street lights
which are more sullen and yellower
than the full moon — its cool
blind eye of bone
and fracture high high above.
His bronze face pure
with starlight or anger
or perhaps love.
“The world
will never be your idea of just
or merciful.”
It all seems one
and I feel it
like an arrow’s blade
at the division between
bone and muscle,
soul and spirit,
like hunger
but more like the craving
after beauty
that is only for brief
apocalyptic
moments satisfied.
Tense
as a bowstring, the
artistry of one straight line,
he walks away
and under the moonlight
is one motion,
flowing up like a spring
from the tendon of the heel.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This poem owes a debt to poet Mary Oliver, who wrote a poem about the constellation Orion coming down out of the sky to talk to her…in my poem the figure of Orion is God. This piece is about me growing up — the necessity of facing the fact that the world is full of evil and injustice, while still holding onto my identity as a person with a moral compass, a person who can relate to God in the midst of an unjust world. It is about the balance in life between knowing that “things just aren’t fair” and living as an individual with integrity anyway. To be a whole person, I think one has to come to terms with these two sides of life. It is also inspired by my habit of long late night walks, sometimes talking to God about the troubles of the world, and sometimes just being with him.

PAINTING: “Orion the Hunter” by Timothy Benz, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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ORION
by Mary Oliver

I love Orion, his fiery body, his ten stars,
his flaring points of reference, his shining dogs.

“It is winter,” he says.
“We must eat,” he says. Our gloomy

and passionate teacher.


                                    Miles below

in the cold woods, with the mouse and the owl, 

with the clearness of water sheeted and hidden,

with the reason for the wind forever a secret,

he descends and sits with me, his voice

like the snapping of bones.


                                    Behind him

everything is so black and unclassical; behind him
I don’t know anything, not even

my own mind.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Oliver (born September 10, 1935) is an American poet who has won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The New York Times described her as “far and away, [America’s] best-selling poet”. (Read more at wikipedia.org.)

PAINTING: “Orion at Cinder Hills Overlook” by Jeremy Perez, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Learn more about this painting at perezmedia.com.