Matty, You Matter

Santa Fe poet Stella Reed is doing some worthwhile community poetry. She says—for the past few years I’ve been working with WingSpan Poetry Project bringing poetry groups to women in domestic violence and homeless shelters along with Elizabeth Jacobson and Barbara Rockman and with the huge hearted support of NMLA including Joan Logghe, Edie Tsong, and Michelle Holland. Lately I’ve had a constant group of enthusiastic, strong writers eager for knowledge of the poetic processes and to have their voices heard. They have access to a shared computer at the shelter and have been able to see their poems posted on our blog.

Also, read this interview with Stella about activism and poetry—–
part of Kenneth Gurney’s excellent e-zine project.

WingSpan Poetry Project

Tatter – thru the tatter

of what mess lay on the table –

For I am going to put together

the pieces of the old– with newer

pieces of today.

Your first pair of jeans–

with my now small pair . . .

I’ll create a quilt of memories

in blue jean denim –

a classic, never out of date, ok style.

Much like Ralph Lauren with a Tiffany

twist or Coach handbag.

Always treasured and carried

with pride.

You Matty, matter.

Thru tattered circumstance

A quilt of “Hope” is sewn.

by Jen J.

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Mammaw’s Marshmallow Cake by Judith McIntosh White

Mammaw’s Marshmallow Cake

          I won’t claim that I never ate a single meal in Mammaw’s immaculate dining room, but I bet the number of times over 20 years of visits that the family sat around her polished oak formal table could be counted on one hand.  No, when we stayed with Mammaw, if the temperature was higher than 40 degrees, at first light we piled out of the house and into the yard.
          Laggard peepers created us, and coos of mourning doves.  Grass wet with dew marked our path to the picnic table.  There we sat, desultory with sleep-caked eyes, contemplating the Kentucky mountain sunrise with grumbling stomachs.  Finally, Mammaw would emerge from the house, where she had been working since 4 a.m., mopping the already spotless floors, humming along with gospel songs.  She’d bring us boxes of cold cereal and a jug of milk, and after we ate, she’d shoo us out onto the 18 wild acres, to gather eggs or wade in the creek or roam briar-choked hillsides until the noon hour, when it was time to once again gather at the table for a nuncheon.
          To say Mammaw was a bit touched in the head might be an understatement.  A hard girlhood, four children, and old-time religion had culminated in obsessions with cleanliness and order that seemed like cold lovelessness to us grandchildren.  But one thing Mammaw could do, she could bake – and her piece de resistance was her chocolate marshmallow cake.  Never again have I tasted such bliss as the gooey, endless layers of moist chocolate sandwiched between layers of melted marshmallows, topped with creamy chocolate icing. 
          To come back from a mountain ramble to that cake – which made its appearance unannounced on the picnic table at erratic intervals, too unscheduled to provoke rational anticipation – now that was heaven.  The cake was hard to cut, messy to eat, and pure joy to any child under 12 (after 12, one had to appear cool and unfazed by such a prize).  I lived for that cake.  Every visit, I knew, sooner or later, the cake would magically appear, for no child – really no grownup, either – ever participated in the creation of the cake.  Mammaw was the sorceress, the high priestess of delight, who brought forth her creation from the fairy realms, the secret lair, of her kitchen.
          When at its most perfect, the cake was made from scratch – at least, that’s the legend – I can’t testify to this under oath, as I never saw it made.  To make a scratch chocolate cake involved melting squares of Hersey’s baking chocolate – there is no other kind – in a sauce pan, then combining quantities of white (unbleached) flour with sugar, baking soda and butter – or maybe Crisco – to produce the cake batter.  Then the cake batter is layered with the marshmallows to form strata of goodness that are first baked, then iced.
The cake melted in our mouths, like county fair cotton candy. Mammaw’s hours of work were savored, devoured, by grandchildren grimy from their morning’s adventures (for the cake always appeared at noon, to be eaten while still slightly warm with over heat and unspoken love).  No cake was ever left behind by the six of us, for it appeared only when we were all present, three girls, three boys. Now that I am full-grown, I realize that Mammaw’s marshmallow cake reified her love for her family.  The cake spoke words she could not.  The cake was her love letter to us all, remembered long after the cake was gone.

In Memory of Joanne Kyger

‘The best thing about the past
is that it’s over’
when you die.
you wake up
from the dream
that’s your life.

Then you grow up
and get to be post human
in a past that keeps happening
ahead of you

Joanne Kyger

Always loved her work. Associate her with San Francisco, her wonderful Japan and India journals, Bolinas, and of course Phil Whalen. I was always thrilled to have a blurb on the back of her STRANGE BIG MOON,”Her journals chronicle what it meant to be a woman trying to write in those pre-feminist beat days, when men were the ones designated as spiritual and creative. Kyger has a sharp wit and a sharper eye.”
—Miriam Sagan

Pantoum by Lisa Powers


Bring me wonder
with inimitable glow
of essence found
in a relentlessly shaking universe

With inimitable glow
wonder extent, full of facts
in a relentlessly shaking universe
to explain the beach and sunset colors

Wonder extent, full of facts
reckon theologies before and after
to explain the beach and sunset colors
lessening climatic inference to a splendorous zenith

Reckon theologies before and after
resolute wonder, full of birds
lessening climatic inference to a splendorous zenith
with camouflage that changes colors in the jungle

Resolute wonder, full of birds
of perfection found
with camouflage that changes colors in the jungle
in remorseless recombining alchemy

Perfection found
in aging skin that changes my form
in remorseless recombining alchemy
belittling redundant transitions for human immortality

Aging skin that changes my form
dogmatic wonder reveals
belittling redundant transitions for human immortality
seeking respite

Dogmatic wonder reveals
continual pulsing neurons
seeking respite
to deny infinite possibility’s continual stagnating angst

Continual pulsing neurons
fortifying wonder
to deny infinite possibility’s continual stagnating angst
for decisive sparks

Fortifying wonder
desquamate intents created from singular ideation
for decisive sparks
not arriving too early or too late

Desquamate intents created from singular ideation
for pneumatic wonder
not arriving too early or too late
with no precise mate not to hate

For pneumatic wonder
explain to the ancestors time’s reposing colorless breath
with no precise mate not to hate
that nags which, when, why, how

Explain to the ancestors time’s reposing colorless breath
show me wonder
that nags which, when, why, how
disparities won and lost

Show me wonder
reducing exclusion from glorious completion
disparities won and lost
in relentlessly dilating chaos

Reducing exclusion from glorious completion
bringing exuberant wonder
in relentlessly dilating chaos
dancing, full of tricks

Bringing exuberant wonder
of essence found
dancing, full of tricks
bring me wonder

Are You An Introvert or An Extrovert–In Your Poetry?

I’ve read José Angel Araguz for what is now many years–and his essay below asks a fascinating question. Emily Dickinson would be the classic introvert, particularly compared to Walt Whitman. But what about you and me? I’m a sociable introvert. But I think my poetry is usually extroverted. Fun to think about.

What’s Poetry Got to Do With It?: Introversion/Extraversion

musings by José Angel Araguz

Episode 7: Introversion/Extraversion

In this episode I explore ways that the terms introversion and extraversion can be used as a lens with which to read poems.
The Introvert/Extravert Lens
The terms introversion and extraversion were first significantly put into use by Carl Jung and later popularized by personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type indicator. From there, popular culture has redefined the terms over time. In general, an introvert is someone who is more reserved and leans toward solitary behavior, while an extravert is seen as someone who is outgoing, talkative, and energetic. As with any set of categories, the terms are not strict; rather, it is best to consider them as making up two sides of a spectrum on which everyone exists leaning one way or another to varying degrees.
One of the things that helped clear this up for me was seeing how the terms played out in regards to recharging one’s energy. If at the end of the week, you look forward to going out and socializing, and actually come back from said outing recharged, you might be an extravert. Conversely, if you go out on the same outing and come back exhausted, no more recharged than when you started, you might be an introvert. Seeing my introverted tendencies as me meeting my needs (and not necessarily my being antisocial) did worlds for my understanding of myself as an introvert. It also helped me empathize with my more extraverted friends and see them as meeting their own needs as well.
For further clarification (and fun!), Buzzfeed has several quizzes and lists that can help you find out if you are more introverted or extroverted.
Inner & Outer Worlds
To return to Jung, his original concept of the terms had him regarding people as either focused on their inner worlds and thoughts (introverts) at the expense of losing touch with their surroundings, or focused on the external world and being active in it (extraverts) at the expense of losing touch with themselves.
One poet whose work reflects the complexity of the introvert-extravert/inner-outer world spectrum is Emily Dickinson. Due to having lived a life of isolation, Dickinson is often written off as an introvert. Lines like the following would in fact help make the case:
The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—
The draw of these lines is how they take concrete things (brain, sky) and push them for the abstract meanings they imply. While on the surface the poem appears to be making a case for mind over matter, so to speak, a deeper reading shows something more akin to mind within matter. In one stanza, Dickinson does the poetic equivalent of pulling apart two strong magnets to show what lives between them.
In another poem, Dickinson does a reversal of these moves:
A sepal, petal, and a thorn
Upon a common summer’s morn—
A flask of Dew—A Bee or two—
A Breeze—a caper in the trees—
And I’m a Rose!
Here, the poem travels from the abstract act of naming physical things to the speaker announcing/becoming a rose. A sign of the transformation begins early in the second line in the form of sound, specifically the “z” sound (summer’s, breeze, trees, rose). As the poem develops, this sound travels parallel to the transformation implied in the words, and becomes its own physical presence, especially if read aloud.
In these two poems, one can see how the inner and outer world engage and impel one another, never cancelling each other out. In a similar way, one’s introversion never cancels out extraverted tendencies and needs.
Final Thoughts
Usually my introverted tendencies would have me continue with examples, ruminating over other poems and unpacking what I find there. I am going to push myself to look outward, however, and invite readers to share their thoughts in the comments regarding introversion and extraversion. I also encourage you to, in your writing, push past whatever type you see yourself leaning towards. If you write mainly about inner impressions, take a walk or describe the physical world around you. If you write mainly about the physical world, start with rhetoric or abstract thought. In either case, you might find yourself reflecting your true nature in a new and surprising way.