Archives for posts with tag: women poets

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NOCTURNE
by Jennifer K. Sweeney

There is a blue city in mind
constructed slantways
 
along a rippling canal, 

clean and unpeopled but for a musician
 
who plays a harp without strings. 

The city has one chair
 
where he sits by the broad strokes of water. 

A lone streetlight tends
 
its blue arc of light. 

A Persian door. A zeppelin sky.
 
The world filters through 

his empty frame as he plucks the air.
 
Maybe you hear a song or maybe you don’t. 

That is the choice we are always making.
***
Jennifer K. Sweeney is the author of two poetry collections: Salt Memory (Main Street Rag, 2006), available at Amazon.com, and How to Live on Bread and Music (Perugia Press, 2009), available at Amazon.com. Visit the author at jenniferksweeney.com. This remarkable poet offers private instruction and poetry critiques. Learn more here.

PAINTING: “La page blanche” (“The white page”) by René  Magritte (1967). Learn more at masterworksfineart.com.

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HOLLYWOOD HILLS NOIR
by Laurel Ann Bogen

Aberration of weather studs
the sloe eyed city where change
gels in ripples after due process
I could go deeper
pry open the locked vault
below, combustible fossils bubble
in tar and petroleum beneath
Wilshire Blvd. — the jacaranda’s roots
divide the house
Los Angeles
erupts in violet blossoms
each spring the profusion
is uncontained by stucco

Nature needs tending, or course
every few years the plates shift
the photogenic councilman is arrested
and somebody takes a fall
That’s how I came here — by a calling
as surely as the devil herself
cloaked in the need to be seen
in filtered light
latticed with faultlines
and an underground whirlpool
as profligate as oil.

“Hollywood Hills Noir” appears in Laurel Ann Bogen‘s collection Washing a Language (Red Hen Press, 2004), available at Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurel Ann Bogen is the author of 10 books of poetry and short fiction, and from 1996 until 2002 was literary curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She has been an instructor of poetry and performance for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program since 1990 and received the Outstanding Instructor of the Year in Creative Writing in 2008. Selected “Best Female Poet/Performer” by the L.A. Weekly in their Best of L.A. issue, she is well-known for her lively readings and is a founding member of the acclaimed poetry performance troupe, Nearly Fatal Women. The recipient of the Curtis Zahn Poetry Prize from the Pacificus Foundtion and two awards from the Academy of American Poets, her work has appeared in over 100 literary magazines and anthologies.

Photo: “The Famed Hollywood Sign from Bronson Canyon” by Corey Miller, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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LAUNDRY
by Ruth Moose

All our life
so much laundry;
each day’s doing or not
comes clean,
flows off and away
to blend with other sins
of this world. Each day
begins in new skin,
blessed by the elements
charged to take us
out again to do or undo
what’s been assigned.
From socks to shirts
the selves we shed
lift off the line
as if they own
a life apart
from the one we offer.
There is joy in clean laundry.
All is forgiven in water, sun
and air. We offer our day’s deeds
to the blue-eyed sky, with soap and prayer,
our arms up, then lowered in supplication.

SOURCE: “Laundry” appears in Ruth Moose’s collection Making the Bed (Main Street Rag Press, 2004), available at Amazon.com.

Photo: Claire Brocato, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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IRONING
by Vicki Feaver

I used to iron everything:
my iron flying over sheets and towels
like a sledge chased by wolves over snow;

the flex twisting and crinking
until the sheath frayed, exposing
wires like nerves. I stood like a horse

with a smoking hoof,
inviting anyone who dared
to lie on my silver padded board,

to be pressed to the thinness
of dolls cut from paper.
I’d have commandeered a crane

if I could, got the welders at Jarrow
to heat me an iron the size of a tug
to flatten the house.

Then for years I ironed nothing.
I put the iron in a high cupboard.
I converted to crumpledness.

And now I iron again: shaking
dark spots of water onto wrinkled
silk, nosing into sleeves, round

buttons, breathing the sweet heated smell
hot metal draws from newly washed
cloth, until my blouse dries

to a shining, creaseless blue,
an airy shape with room to push
my arms, breasts, lungs, heart into.

SOURCE: “Ironing” appears in Vicki Feaver‘s collection The Handless Maiden (Random House, 1994), available at Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Vicki Feaver (born Nottingham , England, 1943) is an English poet. She studied music at Durham University and English at University College, London, and later worked as a lecturer and tutor in English and Creative Writing at University College, Chichester, where she is an Emeritus Professor. She now lives with her psychiatrist husband in Dunsyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, at the foot of the Pentland Hills. She is the author of The Book of BloodClose Relatives, and The Handless MaidenThe Book of Blood was shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. (Read more at Wikipedia.org.)

Painting: “A Woman Ironing” by Edgar Degas (1873)

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CLEANING WINDOWS   
by Margaret Scott

I don’t much like cleaning windows. Ladders wobble.
You can get mugged by buckets. Upper windows
gleam when I’m twelve feet up but look worse
than before they were washed when I’ve clambered down.
You can see both sides at once—the liberal dilemma—
so it’s often hard to decide what’s splashed the glass—
soup or a passing bird. I feel watched by
opponents of aerosol cans, by consciousness-raisers,
by looming aproned figures from childhood,
by al those sparkling television girls
who show the smiling easy way to clean.
I can be brisk, keeping my mind on the job,
or switch my hand to on and watch the sky.
I can brood on reading the signs, on whether
it’s healthier to reflect or concentrate.
In any case the smears show up at night
and there in the darkened glass that shape again,
that anti-heroine, that dismal clown with the
oh-so-predictable foot in a bucket of suds,
the yell from the teetering ladder, the comical angst.

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THE IDEA OF HOUSEWORK
By Dorianne Laux

What good does it do anyone
to have a drawer full of clean knives,
the tines of tiny pitchforks
gleaming in plastic bins, your face
reflected eight times over
in the oval bowls of spoons?
What does it matter that the bathmat’s
scrubbed free of mold, the door mat
swept clear of leaves, the screen door
picked clean of bees’ wings, wasps’
dumbstruck bodies, the thoraxes
of flies and moths, high corners
broomed of spider webs, flowered
sheets folded and sealed in drawers,
blankets shaken so sleep’s duff and fuzz,
dead skin flakes, lost strands of hair
flicker down on the cut grass?
Who cares if breadcrumbs collect
on the countertop, if photographs
of the ones you love go gray with dust,
if milk jugs pile up, unreturned,
on the back porch near the old dog’s dish
encrusted with puppy chow?
Oh to rub the windows with vinegar,
the trees behind them revealing
their true colors. Oh the bleachy,
waxy, soapy perfume of spring.
Why should the things of this world
shine so? Tell me if you know.

SOURCE: “The Idea of Housework” by Dorianne Laux appears in Sweeping Beauty: Contemporary Women Poets Do Housework, edited byPamela Gemin (University of Iowa Press, 2005). The 212-page collection, which features work by over 80 poets, is available at Amazon.com.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Thankless, mundane, and “never done,”  contemporary women poets are still writing the domestic experience — sometimes resenting its futility and lack of social rewards, sometimes celebrating its sensory delights and immediate gratification, sometimes cherishing the undeniable link it provides to their mothers and grandmothers. In Sweeping Beauty, a number of these poets illustrate how housekeeping’s repetitive motions can free the imagination and release the housekeeper’s muse. For many, housekeeping provides the key to a state of mind approaching meditation, a state of mind also conducive to making poems. The more than eighty contributors toSweeping Beauty embrace this state and confirm that women are pioneers and inventors as well as life-givers and nurturers.

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DUSTING
by Marilyn Nelson

Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.
 
For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.
 
My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marilyn Nelson earned her BA from the University of California, Davis, and holds postgraduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (MA, 1970) and the University of Minnesota (PhD, 1979). Her books include Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems, 1996-2011 (2012); The Cachoeira Tales, and Other Poems (2005); The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems (1997),  a finalist for the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the 1997 National Book Award, and the PEN Winship Award; Magnificat (1994); The Homeplace (1990), which won the 1992 Annisfield-Wolf Award and was a finalist for the 1991 National Book Award; Mama’s Promises (1985); and For the Body (1978). Her honors include the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, a Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. From 2001–2006, she served as the Poet Laureate of Connecticut.

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MOTHER ANN TELLS LUCY WHAT GAVE HER JOY
by Arra Lynn Ross

A moment of understanding
     when the face lights up
          and even the trees seem to kneel.
The mossy ground
     below a huge willow
          by the side of the marsh.
Children who come
     with white faces
          and turn pink
               in the sun.
 
The sound of sawing in the woods
          and the long lone hum
               of a boat bearing lumber
                    down the Hudson.
The sudden deer in the trees,
          a streak of white tail
               and the hoof prints
                    filling with water.
 
The sound of voices
          rounding out with grace,
               with trust.
                    And rosehip tea steaming in the sun.
How many times we threw off our shoes
          and danced together,
               the cool ground under our soles.
                    And the mud! churned by feet, and horses,
                       ox-carts and cows.
          The open throats
               and closed eyes,
                    that red ringing
                         inside my heart.
 
And mornings that Lucy sang
     making breakfast,
          snatches of hymns
               stuck together.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Arra Lynn Ross grew up on a communal farm in Minnesota and attended Macalester College in Saint Paul, where she earned her BA in English. She completed her PhD in creative writing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and currently teaches creative writing at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. Her work has appeared in Spoon River Poetry ReviewHayden’s FerryBeloit Poetry Journal, and Alimentum. Ross’s poems have also been featured on Verse Daily and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day. “Mother Ann Tells Lucy What Gave Her Joy” appears in her collection Seedlip and Sweet Apple (Milkweed Editions, 2010), available at Amazon.com or at Milkweed Editions.

Illustration: “The Willow Weeps,” digitally painted photo by Bonnie Bruno, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Prints available at etsy.com.

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IN MY DREAMS
by Stevie Smith

In my dreams I am always saying goodbye and riding away,   
Whither and why I know not nor do I care.
And the parting is sweet and the parting over is sweeter,   
And sweetest of all is the night and the rushing air.
 
In my dreams they are always waving their hands and saying goodbye,
And they give me the stirrup cup and I smile as I drink,   
I am glad the journey is set, I am glad I am going,
I am glad, I am glad, that my friends don’t know what I think.

Source: The New Selected Poems of Stevie Smith (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1988).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Florence Margaret “Stevie” Smith was born in 1902 in Yorkshire, England. She began writing poetry in her twenties, and her first book, Novel on Yellow Paper, was published in 1936. Smith’s first collection of verse, A Good Time Was Had By All (1937), also contained rough sketches or doodles, which became characteristic of her work. These drawings have both a feeling of caprice and doom, and the poetry in the collection is stylistically typical of Smith as it conveys serious themes in a nursery rhyme structure. Much of her inspiration came from theology and the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. Her style is unique in its combination of seemingly prosaic statements, variety of voices, playful meter, and deep sense of irony. Smith was officially recognized with the Chomondeley Award for Poetry in 1966 and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1969. She died in 1971. (Source: Poets.org.)

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MY DOG PRACTICES GEOMETRY
by Cathryn Essinger

I do not understand the poets who tell me
that I should not personify. Every morning
the willow auditions for a new role

outside my bedroom window—today she is
Clytemnestra; yesterday a Southern Belle,
lost in her own melodrama, sinking on her skirts.

Nor do I like the mathematicians who tell me
I cannot say, “The zinnias are counting on their
fingers,” or “The dog is practicing her geometry,”

even though every day I watch her using
the yard’s big maple as the apex of a triangle
from which she bisects the circumference

of the lawn until she finds the place where
the rabbit has escaped, or the squirrel upped
the ante by climbing into a new Euclidian plane.

She stumbles across the lawn, eyes pulling
her feet along, gaze fixed on a rodent working
the maze of the oak as if it were his own invention,

her feet tangling in the roots of trees, and tripping,
yes, even over themselves, until I go out to assist,
by pointing at the squirrel, and repeating, “There!

There!” But instead of following my outstretched
arm to the crown of the tree, where the animal is
now lounging under a canopy of leaves,

catching its breath, charting its next escape,
she looks to my mouth, eager to read my lips,
confident that I—who can bring her home

from across the field with a word, who
can speak for the willow and the zinnia—
can surely charm a squirrel down from a tree.

“My Dog Practices Geometry” by Cathryn Essinger originally appeared in the January 2002 edition of Poetry.

PAINTING: “Dogs Autumn Squirrel Patrol” by Renee DeLeon — prints available at etsy.com.