Hello to you in this bright, shiny new year, dear Readers!

Here I am to share news and reflections about books—the making and reading and reviewing of books.

Several of the posts I offered last year focused on the happiness surrounding the publication of individual poems, and many of those publications were of poems within my second collection, The Long Now Conditions Permit, which was a 2022 finalist for the Test Site Poetry Series. To learn where the poems appear or are forthcoming, visit my website’s Poet page and/or take a spin through last year’s posts: October 31, 2022; August 25, 2022; June 15, 2022; May 29, 2022; April 28, 2022; February 5, 2022.

In this first post of 2023, allow me to share with you two publications which closed out 2022, wrapping the year up with a lovely loveliness. First up, The Capilano Review 50th Anniversary three-volume glossary. My writing appears in volume three under S for Space.

Space & the Unworded within (My) Poems, my hybrid writing—part poem, part poetics essay, part treatise, part je ne sais quois—on how space is enacted within my poems appears in Issue 3.48 (Fall 2022) of The Capilano Review 50th Anniversary three-volume glossary. Below, the treatise’s opening pages.

Allow me to share a bit about how this writing came into being. In July 2020, I drafted a poem-a-day in community. A lifeline during the pandemic! As per my usual, many of those poems were showing up inhabiting the space of the page differently from the majority of other poems in a columnar form which hugged the left margin. About midway through, “space” came to the attention of someone else in the group and that poet inquired:

“I am wondering about spacing in the poetry. I see a lot of poems with seemingly arbitrary spacing. If the poet has a reason to use it, it often escapes me. But I see it a lot, so I think I’m missing some important points.”

Since as far as I could tell, I was the only one using the space of the page in the group, I took these questions as a sort of prompt and wrote the beginnings of a treatise on how I conceive of and the enact space on the page, which I offered to the community:

“Dear Companion Poetic Line-breakers & Space-makers,

I’ve made some notes and offer you a nut-graph of sorts on the thinking that arises regarding space, spacing, etc.” 

Positive feedback for what I wrote encouraged me to develop the treatise, and to see if I could get it published. I had it in mind for a call at The Capilano Review. While those lovely editors did not think it was a fit for that call, they did think it was a fit for the three-volume experimental glossary that they were planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Capilano Review in 2022. My treatise was a non-brainer fit in the third volume under the letter S for space. I was thrilled! Still am! The writing of the treatise has been a gift and a teacher. It was sort of magical how it all came to be, and I’m grateful for that poet’s initial questions which got me space-travelling, and also to those who read the piece and offered encouragement. Questions and encouragement: a delicious recipe for my making and writing!

There is more! My poetics treatise was inspiration for the event: A Partly Common Language: Roundtable on the Poetics Essay, which the smart, thoughtful people at The Capilano Review organized to launch Issue 3.48 (Fall 2022).

Above, my typical thinking gesture in freeze-frame. To hear me read from my treatise on space and the entire November 17 roundtable, which includes the incomparable Nicole Brossard, along with Stephen Collis, Larissa Lai, Jami Macarty, and D.S. Marriott, go to The Capilano Review YouTube channel and look for A Partly Common Language: Roundtable on the Poetics Essay (or click on the title).


The last publication of 2022 was of my poem “The Fourth Leaf,” a poem from The Long Now Conditions Permit, which appeared in Redivider 19.2. Visit the Redivider website to read the entire poem.

I have long-admired Redivider, so it was especially gratifying for me that the editors gave a home to one of my poems. And now, I include, and am included in, the Redivider community.

Community, expanding concentric outward circles was a theme for and a gift of 2022. I am grateful to my poems for connecting me anew to communities and editors who have supported my writing from early on, and also with new communities. All in all it was a terrifically exciting year for this poet!


Some 2022 Year-End Tallies:

Chances, Publications, and Rejections. As I shared above, twenty-three poems were accepted for publication. Add to that one poetics essay for twenty-four acceptances. Of those, sixteen poems and one essay were published in 2022. The additional seven poems are forthcoming this year—something to look forward to in 2023! I also await decisions on fifteen more chances to be accepted for publication that are still alive.

2022 was the best year ever for me/my writing on the publishing of individual poems front. How do I account for that? Simple. I sent my writing out for consideration more than I ever have before. I took about 130 chances to get published individual poems, a fourth chapbook, a second book, and to be awarded grants or residencies. Enough to receive 138 rejections, though some of those come from the chances I took in 2021. That is how! And, I joined a group of women writers who strive for 100 rejections in the year. They were my spur and support. The exercise was immunity building. Also, community building.

Book tallies. #mypersonalBigRead2022. Started in 2018, last year was my fifth year of reading how much I can read. How much did I read in 2022? 327 volumes, comprised of:      

175: Full-length collections of poetry
51: Chapbooks (poetry & nonfiction)
69: Journals, Magazines (literary, etc.)
32: Fiction, Nonfiction, Memoir
Total = 327 individual volumes in 2022!

Last year, I concentrated on reading a many-year backlog of literary journals and magazines—some from the 1990s! Some of the older magazines were like time capsules, allowing me to gain perspective on how both certain magazines used to be as well as how poetry and fiction used to be. That was fun! I made many new-old discoveries, read some writers’ beginnings, and went down some rabbit holes. I learned a ton and plumped up my respect and appreciation for literary magazines, particularly Beloit Poetry Journal, Denver Quarterly, Fence, and Vallum.

Onward to my sixth year of reading! I am 32 books into my #mypersonalBigRead2023. Below, the previous five years’ tallies of 1,512 books, so you can take a look:

Book tallies. Reviews. I offered reviews to 20 books in 2022. Mostly volumes of poetry inspired me to write something about my experience of reading them. Some full-length collections, some chapbooks, some hybrid books. I am particularly chuffed about the following reviews:

Why am I chuffed? I have the feeling of getting close to what I most wanted to say about these books in these longer-form reviews. You are most cordially invited to take a look. The links to all of the reviews I offered last year are available on this website; toggle to my site’s Poet page, where you will find the entire list of reviews.


The Pluses!

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!

+ Thank you bows to my community of women/women-identified writers for their generous, loving support, inspiration, and encouragement.

+ Thank you bows to Editorial Director Matea Kulić, Literary Editor Deanna Fong, and Art Editor Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross at The Capilano Review for giving attention and page-space to my poetics treatise-essay “Space & the Unworded in (My) Poems” and for their continuous support of my writing.

+ Thank you bows to good people at Redivider for their support of my writing/making practice and for giving a home to “The Fourth Leaf.”

+ I bow to the existence of The Capilano Review and Redivider, where I find community.

+ I bow to the editors, who supported my reviews and the publications where they were published: Denise Hill at NewPages; Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross at The Capilano Review; Manahil Bandukwala at Canthius; James M. Fisher at The Miramachi Reader.

+ I bow to each and every author of each and every poem and story I read in 2022! Thank you for your company!

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to my publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, and Mountain West Poetry Series editors Donald Revell and Kazim Ali, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses (2020) with me.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Beth Svinarich et al at University Press of Colorado for their beautiful support to me and The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to monsoon storm chaser and marvelous professional photographer, Liz Kemp whose monsoon photograph storms the cover of The Minuses.

+ Thank you bows to Nomados Literary Publishers, Meredith and Peter Quartermain for making my chapbook Instinctive Acts with me.

+ Thank you bows to Vallum Chapbook Series and editors Leigh Kotsilidis and Eleni Zisimatos for making my chapbook Mind of Spring with me.

+ Thank you bows to Finishing Line Press and editors Leah Maines and Christen Kinkaid for making my chapbook Landscape of The Wait with me.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to Vincent K. Wong for his friendship, creative collaboration, and for taking my author photos.

+ This bears repeating: Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me! I would love to hear from you!


Continuing, dear reader, with the pluses congregating around The Minuses. You may be wondering what are “the minuses” and how do the poems of the book address and express them… To satisfy your wondering, here’s an encapsulation of what the poems take on and talk up:

The Minuses beckons attention to ecological and feminist issues and the co-incidence of eating disorders, sexual harassment, family and intimate partner violence, homelessness, suicide, environmental destruction, and other forms of endangerment. Seeking escape from relationship, belief and self, multi-perspective survivors claim voice as contemplators of natural splendors, and as seekers of incarnate desires. These voices amplify the precariousness that predicates women’s lives and the natural world, laying bare the struggle and faith required to endure with integrity and spirit intact.

from the back cover of The Minuses

The duality between “the minuses” and “the pluses” is an aspect of the physical word being lived and survived within the poems of The Minuses.

That there are pluses occurring around the poems of The Minuses and in a continuum of readers and their responses given to the poems. Well, that’s everything to a poet. By which I mean: an expansiveness, transcending the physical world and belonging to the spiritual world.

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One such person giving his spirit and attention to The Minuses is Paul Nelson, founder of Seattle Poetics LAB (SPLAB), the Cascadia Poetry Festival, and POetry POstcard Fest (PoPo). As well as a spiritual practitioner and a maker of community-based projects, Paul is the author of Organic Poetry: North American Field Poetics, a collection of essays, and A Time Before Slaughter, a serial poem, re-enacting the history of Auburn, WA, among others. I hope you will give some of your special attention to Paul’s creative and community work.

Here, I give you an excerpt of Paul’s “Some Notes on The Minuses,” which he posted on his site on July 10, 2020. Click on Paul’s blog title or the date to read his notes in full; it’s worth the click (!) because of the context he offers on Postmodern poetics and Charles Olson’s “dodge of discourse.” Here’s the excerpt of Paul’s “Notes”:

Notes on The Minuses: Paul Nelson

To celebrate that 5% of North American poetry (a number I simply pulled out of some wet, warm place) one must savor the books that go beyond the dodges of discourse. One which came across my desk a couple of months ago is The Minuses by Jami Macarty…

As I was reading The Minuses I took some notes as if I were going to interview her. So, this is not a “review” which is not my forte, but some notes on The Minuses.

First note is from the poem Two-way:

Part (page 9) of the poem, “Two-way,” from The Minuses; image by Paul Nelson.

In many North American indigenous cultures Raven is associated with death, or transformation. A trickster like coyote in some traditions. In J.C. Cooper’s book An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols (a go-to book for me) Raven represents prophecy, is a symbol of “blackening and mortification” in alchemy and also “The raven sent out from the Ark by Noah represents wandering, unrest and the unclean.” Here’s where we remember the allusion to violence in the back blurb and recognize the divinity the author sees missing from the situation. I love how she ends the poem, referring to a helicopter taking off, leaving “the earth-abandoned swirl.”

There is the poem Site Record:

The poem, “Site Record” (page 19) from The Minuses; image by Paul Nelson.

Take THAT you SOB!

And one could go on like this, pointing out the very sharp perceptions, the moments where one feels aligned with the poet, perhaps re-experiencing the worst moments of relationship (though as a straight man, I am much less likely to experience physical abuse or violence in a relationship) … In the notes at the end of the book, which are helpful and not “here’s what this poem means” which is what you might find in a book of naïve or “workshop” poetry, she writes that the poem is “indebted to Leslie Scalapino and Rosemarie Waldrop.” Here are two poets that are both well known in “outsider” North American poetry circles and gives you some sense of the poetry ancestors she has allied herself with...

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I feel very lucky to have Paul’s “Notes”; these are the sort of thoughts-in-action, reader’s response most precious to a poet. You are most cordially invited to go directly to Paul Nelson’s site and read the entirety of “Some Notes on The Minuses.”

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Also on July 10, as luck would have it, Talking Poetics #22: How Poems Begin, a piece I offered to ottawa poetry newsletter, curated by rob mclennan, was published.

How does a poet begin a poem? Does the poet begin a poem or does the poem begin itself? These questions are the basis of my inquiry on how “my” poems begin and from where, from what energy and impulse. Read what I wrote on the matter of beginnings:

Talking Poetics #22 : Jami Macarty

How poems begin

Nuts and bolts. Which comes first? The answer interests me. Sometimes bolts; almost always nuts! At other times, especially when writing is happening in real time, the question is forgotten…. When a poem is beginning or middling or ending then there’s no need for the question. Questions about how a poem begins seem especially instrumental as points of departure when no poem is forthcoming or beginning. If I can know how a poem begins, then maybe I can begin one. A poem, it seems to me, is always beginning.

From another angle, who knows how a poem gets started? When confronted with this question, I don’t. In so many ways and a lot of the time, the beginning arises out of mystery. Some immaculateness.

If a poem’s a living thing like a plant, then its beginning is a seed. Or, the beginning is a bird that eats and passes the seed on, somewhat fortified, to a locale where conditions are more favorable and growth more likely.

This process may suggest silence, but monitor for heartrate and you’ll hear one. Ah ha! That seems to be the way a poem gets started for me—auditorily. Via a seed sound, word, or phrase. I hear something whispered, overhear speech or a birdsong or a gate creak—flints that spark my mind or serve like a hand shot straight up inquiry.

As I think about these spokens and overheards some qualities emerge. They are typically the most obvious things said: Something is not right here. Often declarative. Ambiguous. A double entendre. Often paratactic: I’ll be mercy if you be a killer whale. Sometimes mishearings: Age of Aquariums. Alliterations. Assonances. Aphorisms given new life. Chiasmic reversals and antimetabolic turn abouts—Let me go, so I can come back, my mother said.  Repetitive echophenonomena like the Gila woodpecker beak-banging the corrugated roof. Syllogistic.

So, there’s a sound, a phrase, a statement, an utterance of varying qualities whose wind thrums my mind. I use a notebook. The words get written down. Often there is more listening and recording on the page. Collages of meaning and tone. If not then, later.

A parallel visual process may also unfold. Instead of hearing the phrase, it’s read or misread. It gets written down. That may lead to an on-the-spot erasure or mining of language, words, word pairings. More phrases written down.

Mood may dictate. Mood of listener, reader. Mood of what’s heard and read. Or, is that intuition talking. Both filter and factor the selection process while ‘I’ stays in the background. One part of the brain is occupied with listening or looking, the other finding. If the spell breaks and self-consciousness or willfulness interrupts this program, then it’s over for that sitting.

There isn’t necessarily sitting to make this happen or even with the intention for it to happen. There’s only openness to happening, then noticing when it does. A going with that.

It has always been like this. Since I was a kid, writing things down as if transcribing the sounded world. Writing things down because of how they sound. The pleasure of sounds coming together in meaning, in a way that interests. Of course, this implies that there’s an awareness of interest. An awakening alertness to sound, to how something sounds.

When considering starting a poem with a “loose structure” it takes a while for an example to arise. It happens, but not often. When it has, the structure is anaphoric: I’ll be… if you be…; I’ll be… if you be… “Ideas” tend not to be my flints either. If ideas, then they tend to reference subject matter. Maybe I’ll write about bees… Honestly, though, I can’t make anything happen in the beginning or ever. If I try or force bees, I get stung. Writing and beginning to write work in flow and flight and if I get out of the way of words. Plenty of sparks from words themselves. Their sounds unbound and bounding.

At the beginning, in it, there’s not the presence of knowing whether it’s the middle, beginning, or end. Order is a thing later discovered. The beginning is often the end, and then writing that proceeds is often writing to a beginning. Knowing where, when, what next, that can be a thing in the revision process. Often what feels satisfying is only so to no one else.

Reading. Reading takes place to sprout language, tone. To get in word mood. To warm up eyes and ears. To see if the conditions for writing arise. It’s the ears again; they have to hear something. When they do, the language boat is underway. Could be a short writing-reading spell or a day or night.

Bits, pieces, get assembled. Reorder can be a thing. What comes out is often disrupted on the way, so attention is given over to discovering what’s backward, diagonal, and sideways. From there line breaks.

At first, when typing from notebooks, assembling fragments onto a screen page, line breaks and lengths are left as is. In subsequent drafts and the more the assemblage is heard, the more apt the breaks and length are to be changed.

There’s a favoring of line as unit of meaning. One that adds to or contradicts the conveyance of the whole. Lines tend to accumulate via caesura and hemistich. All line lengths are to be loved equally. For breath rhythm and visual intrigue, a poem may mix line lengths. Love sentence as much as line, but sentences save themselves for prose poems. Delineated poems tend not to be made up of sentences. When they are the sentence is disrupted, disguised, an intervenor and sometime conscious objector.

Some of this is true. Some contradictory. Unkempt. Am I always excavating language? Not always. I think of relative. I think of instinct. I know that place. You know that place. You’ve been there. We recognize the artifacts.

I like beginnings, but can’t pretend I understand or know them. I think there may be a simple answer to the question how my poems begin—they just begin—but I only just thought of that—at the ending.

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I hope you will check out rob mclennan and his various projects supporting poetry in North America, including his ottawa poetry newsletter and Talking Poetics series. There, you will find, a cornucopia of inspiration! You may also read my contribution to Talking Poetics #22: How Poems Begin, in situ there.

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+ Thank you bows to Paul Nelson for reading The Minuses, offering his beautifully personal, contextualizing reading “Notes” on the poems, and for featuring The Minuses on his Cascadia interviews blog.

+ Thank you bows to rob mclennan for including me in the Talking Poetics series in ottawa poetry newsletter and for publishing my Talking Poetics #22: How Poems Begin.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to publisher Stephanie G’Schwind, editor Donald Revell, et al interns at the Center for Literary Publishing (CLP) for making The Minuses with me.

+ Thank you bows to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions about how poems begin or anything else poetry-related, write me!