! BOOKS !

National Poetry Month commenced in the United States in 1996 when the Academy of American Poets brought to the foreground this appreciation and celebration of poetry; Canada joined in the fun in 1998. Why April? That has to do with the opening line to T. S. Eliot’s 1922 poem “The Waste Land”: “April is the cruellest month.”

I get where Eliot is coming from, it being muddy, sluggish spring and all, but instead of getting into whether or not April is cruellest month of all and why. Or, vying for December’s rank. I will offer that no month is any crueller than another and get on with sharing with you my recognition and acknowledgement of my writing practice, especially where it pertains to the making of my second collection of poems and to celebrate and appreciate poet and editor Claudia Keelan and one of her special editorial projects: Interim: A Journal of Poetry Poetics.

On my way there, allow me to share with you a poet’s dream scenario and a bit more about my second collection of poems, The Long Now Conditions Permit. I wrote the majority of the manuscript’s poems in ninety-five days, which consisted of a five-day writing spell in January 2020 and three thirty-day writing spells in July 2020, October 2020, and January 2021. Realizing my intentions to write five poems in five days and thirty poems in thirty days (three times) proved to me again just what I am able to accomplish when I am determined, passionate, serious, and persistent.

I say “again” because starting in July 2013 and for the next three-and-a-half years ish, I wrote just about a poem a day. The math: something like 1,300 poems. Talk about a writing practice that puts into perspective the valuation of “good” and “bad” and balances that duality with simply intending to write and accomplishing the writing of a poem each day. Day by day the poems mount, and as they do the poet becomes less precious about what poems are and more playful with what they can be and can do via diction and form, image and association. Plus, that daily word-play over an extended period taught me about the meaning of aiming for the target, gaining experience, and getting to know the poems I make and myself as a poet.

Back to the coming into being of my second manuscript. Each day in December 2021 by method of butt-in-chair, I revised all of the poems written between January 2020 and 2021, which included some deep recasts/revisions, drawing on a kernel of some poems written during the three-and-a-half-year spell. Once the poems were revised, there was the decision process of which to include, then onward to order those poems into a book. There were a few rounds of those two steps as the book honed. Et voilà! On December 30, 2021, I sent the manuscript to Interim Test Site Poetry Series for consideration.

Even so, the book was not quite closed. Here and there, a few points of precision within lines, images, and words still gave me hesitation and were not yet satisfying. So, after three days away from the manuscript, I continued tuning, honing, and shaping on my own, considering comments I received from a trusted editor. After another two weeks, I arrived at a resting place for the manuscript and got on with sending poems from it out for consideration and reading from my stacks. O, the stacks!

Then on February 21, Claudia Keelan, Editor of Interim Test Site Poetry Series notified me that my manuscript was a semi-finalist and still under consideration. A thrill for the poems and the poet! On March 6, Claudia wrote again to notify me that my manuscript was one of fifteen (1/15) finalists. More excitement! Kissing and dancing upon Earth. Tra la! Tra la!

Test Site Poetry Series Finalists!

Claudia and Interim’s associate editors’ belief in and embrace of the manuscript is gratifying and thrilling feedback, especially for a poet whose first book took ten years to find a publisher. This near to immediate, positive feedback bodes well for the life of this book. O, Poetry Gods! Though The Long Now That Conditions Permit was not crowned winner, in recognition of being a finalist, Interim: A Journal of Poetry & Poetics, selected and published five poems from my manuscript.

Interim, where Test Site Finalists’ poems appear

This second manuscript continues and furthers the ecofeminist focus and positioning of my first book, The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020) The selection of poems in Interim will orient you to how the poems engage the various conditions and systems that prevent the freedom of women who desire the liberty to walk Earth as they are, wounded but free. You are cordially invited to read the poems! Here’s an excerpt from “Bardo Friend and I Belly Up to Smattering Stars.”

Interim: A Journal of Poetry & Poetics and Editor Claudia Keelan have been enormously and gorgeously supportive, my life and the lives of my poems. She published two poems from my first poetry collection The Minuses and offered the book these wonder words:

The poems in Jami Macarty’s devotional collection swing upon a hinge that is the recurring site of the poet’s perception in time, where what is seen shows the inherent connection of each thing to its other: ‘honey given / honey taken.’ The Minuses’ brilliance lives in what the poet is able to give up for the possibility of finding a wholeness that is ongoing: ‘I come and go / from myself as I am / I will not return.’ A seer is, after all, one who sees. Jami Macarty is one who sees.”
—Claudia Keelan

And, Claudia has been equally, vitally supportive to the poems in my second collection, The Long Now Conditions Permit. She selected six poems from the batch of poems I wrote during July 2020 (some of which are in the second manuscript) for publication in the all-women print issue of Interim 2020. Plus, in that issue she offered a review (under her penname Lacy Aul) of The Minuses that made birds fly in my heart.

Interim, 2020 all-women print issue

And, she selected another poem from the manuscript for the 2021 all-women print issue.

Interim, 2021 all-women print issue

You see what I mean? Claudia: Enormously, generously supportive. A dream come true of support for, belief in, and embrace of me and the poems I write. Claudia’s is a consciousness on Earth I would not want to be without in mind or spirit.

And, on that note, allow me to take a bow and my leave. But, before I do, thank you dear readers, for the gifts of your time and attention as I share with you what I have been appreciating and celebrating in my writer’s life.

: :

The Pluses!

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

+ Thank you bows to Claudia Keelan, beautiful poet, special friend, and generous editor.

+ Thank you bows to Interim: A Journal of Poetry & Poetics, Andrew S. Nicholson, Assistant Editor, and Kathryn McKenzie, Managing Editor.

+ Thank you bows to Interim Test Site Poetry Series and the editorial team for your unique attention to my poems.

+ 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 the chapbook Instinctive Acts with me.

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

+ Thank you bows to Finishing Line Press and editors Leah Maines and Christin Kinkaid for making the 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!

! BOOKS !

Happy New Year and Happy February to you, dear readers!

Let us tall about books. The reading, reviewing, and making of books…

I want to share with you what this poet accomplished during January: I read 26 books and chapbooks. Mostly poetry, of course! I loved books by Kazim Ali (Sky Ward), Ralph Angel (Twice Removed), Margaree Little (Rest), and C. D. Wright (Deepstep Come Shining & Rising, Falling Hovering), among other wonders. And, reading aloud a story or two most days, I arrived to page 596 in The Stories of John Cheever. What a writer!

I offered my reader’s response for five of the books I read and posted them on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon. I appreciate the challenge to bring to words my take on a book I have read. Take a peek!

I sent out on the breaths of candle wishes (20+) batches of my poems and my second manuscript of poetry for consideration, and I applied for a residency. This sending of my writing out, is for me, a gesture of engagement with what it means to be a writer and is also an engagement with hope for conversation.

Such a hope-conversation emerges in TinFish 22: INARTICULATE FUTURES in which “I am walking without looking,” a poem from my second manuscript, is included. The looking up, looking down, looking elsewhere issue cover image (above), by Olivia Kailani Marohnic, inspires the temporal thinking within the issue. I am grateful for the conversation with what it means to be an experimental writer who lives in proximity to the Pacific Ocean. I am quite taken by the writing of the other seven other contributors…

You are most cordially invited to read the articulations of the impossible future within the issue of TinFish. Accompanying the poems by each contributor is a short audio clip that contextualizes the future-thinking from within the poems. They are fascinating! Come, bring your ears, your eyes to our poems!

Hurrah! This bright, shiny, new Year of the (water) Tiger is off to a smashing start.

: :

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

+ Thank you bows to each of the writers whose books, chapbooks, and stories I read in January; your efforts inspire me to bring my words into the light.

+ Thank you bows to TinFish editorial team Jaimie Guzman Nagle, Zoë Loos, and Donovan Kūhiō Colleps, whose care and attention brought forth my poem and its companions in TinFish 22: Inarticulate Futures.

+ 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 the chapbook Instinctive Acts with me.

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

+ Thank you bows to Finishing Line Press and editors Leah Maines and Christin Kinkaid for making the 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!

! BOOKS !

Well, my dears, my friends, soon December and 2021 will be a wrap. Here I am one more time this year to say hello and share of myself and my practices of writing and reading books.

I took December entirely off from any other word-work (as editor, mentor/teacher) to make way for my own at-home writer’s retreat. During the month, I planned to work with the poems I wrote between January 2020 and January 2021—about 120 of them or about 150 pages—with an eye on assembling a second manuscript of poetry. I made the time and space and set my intentions. Even so, I did not know what I would get done.

A lot got done! The reason I know about how many poems and pages I have is because I compiled, read, and revised all of them. Some poems arrived at more wholeness than others, some were set aside because they did not inspire me to further engagement, some are resting after word-surgery. I am saying I worked on all of the poems to one extent or another, arranged them in groups according to where they are in the “done” continuum, and now have a working draft of a new manuscript. What a marvelous month of devotion to my imagination it has been. Tra La La!

Thank you so very mucho to everyone who supported me during the days and weeks of words this month, especially JRW.

To support my composing and revising and organizing, I read a bunch during the month—and throughout the year—and found a lot of good company. If you have been following me here, then you know this is year four of #mypersonalBigRead.

Drum roll… I did it; I read an average of one volume (full-length collection of poetry, chapbook, magazine, memoir, fiction) each day of the year. Actually, I read a smidge more than that; I read a total of 374 volumes in 2021! The four year tally: 1,185 volumes. Here are the stats…

Even as I tally the numbers there is a wafting of disbelief. Just as with my intention to take a personal writing retreat for December, I made the plan to read up a storm during the year. In doing so, however I have no idea what I will do or actually accomplish. I think that has something to do with who makes the plan and who sits in the chair at the desk. The difference between an idea and fingers to the keyboard or eyes to the page. Making the plan and then seeing what I can/will do feels like a big experiment. So, I surprise myself. The results of my efforts and labors surprise me. I like that. Surprise is special.

May the last few days of 2021 surprise you! And, may 2022 unwrap and unfold in surprise for all of us!

I send you my very best of everything for health, happiness, safety, and creativity.

::

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

+ Thank you bows to all of the writers whose books, chapbooks, stories, and novel I read; your efforts inspire me to bring my words into the light.

+ Thank you bows to all of the editors whose support brought forth the books, chapbooks, stories, and novel I read in 2021.

+ 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 (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!

! Books !

Dear Reader, Dear Reader!

October 15, 2021 was a rather grand day of publication in my life as an editor and a poet. The Fall 2021 of The Maynard, the online poetry journal I co-founded and at which I am the editor entered the world and four of my poems were published in the Fall 2021 issue of BlazeVOX. Tra la!

Here’s the fierce and fine cover of the Fall 2021 issue of The Maynard, “Tiger Orange” created by Clare Owen and a list of the issue’s poets.

The Maynard Fall 2021 issue represents six months of my work as an editor. From February 1 to July 31, 2021 300 batches of five poems each were sent in for consideration for the Fall 2021 issue. I read close to 1,500 poems from which 28 poems were selected for the issue. How long does reading 1,500 poems take? I clocked my reading rate at an average of 15 batches per hour, which is about 20 hours. From that first reading phase, I collected the poems I want to return to because there’s something about them… Then, I went back and read all of those poems more deeply and in repetition. Some poems slide away, some stick. Those poems that stick are shared with my colleague who has gone through a similar process. During two and a half hour meetings (four of them), we went back and forth reading to each other the poems on our long list. We become outrageous. We become passionate as we argue for the poems we most want, we are disappointed when a poem doesn’t hold up to our imaginations, but we relent, and finally we are giddy for the poems left on the table. First stage letters go out. From there, I conducted line edits on the poems. Second stage letters go out. Then, I take my findings, comments, and suggestions to an editorial conversation with each of the 24 poets. There was lots of email back and forth about commas and uses of this or that word and what Blake called “Minute Particulars”: “Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the Little Ones.” The “Little Ones” in this case being the details that are crucial to a poem’s full life. After the editorial phase arrives the proofreading phase. More email. The correction of the proof. More email. More email. Then, miraculously, publication!

Read the Fall 2021 issue of The Maynard!

::

Welcome to the Fall 2021 issue of BlazeVOX where four of my newer poems appear! In his introduction, editor Geoffrey Gatza writes: “In this issue we seek to avoid answers but rather to ask questions. With a subtle minimalistic approach, this issue of BlazeVOX focuses on the idea of “public space” and more specifically on spaces where anyone can do anything at any given moment: the non-private space, the non-privately owned space, space that is economically uninteresting. The works collected feature coincidental, accidental, and unexpected connections, which make it possible to revise literary history and, even, better, to complement it.” Later in the introduction, Gatza writes: “These pieces demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own “cannibal” and “civilized” selves.”

The four poems of mine that appear in the Fall 2021 issue of BlazeVOX are from a series of thirty-one poems begun in 2014 during a time of intense contemplation of the War in Afghanistan, the nineteen-year, 10-month conflict that took place from 2001 to 2021. I was particularly focused on the stressful and traumatic effects of war on those who go to fight as well as those who stay home to wait. The poem titles: “If There Were Anywhere But Desert,” “Countenance,” “Who Bed Is This to Lie On,” and “O Beautiful for Post-Traumatic Stress.”

In August 2021 during the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, maybe as a way to cope or as a way to answer the destruction of war with creative energy, I was called to return to this series of poems. I took a chance sending them out; a poet always enters the game of chance when sending work out for consideration. And, hurrah, editor Geoffrey Gatza liked them enough to offer to publish them all together. Hurrah! These are the first poems from that as yet untitled series that have been published. I’m grateful to Geoffrey Gatza and I am grateful that the poems are together.

Read my poems in Fall 2021 issue of BlazeVOX!

::

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

+ Thank you bows to my colleague at The Maynard, and to the 24 poets and cover artist Clare Owen who trusted us with their art.

+ Thank you bows to BlazeVOX editor Geoffrey Gatza for his confidence in my poems.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to 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 (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!

! Books !

Dear Reader! Dear Listener!

On October 1, 2021, Sabyasachi (Sachi) Nag at The Artisanal Writer asked me nine questions about the craft of writing and reading. And, I answered them!

The Artisanal Writer asked me these nine Qs:

  1. Each of your poetry collections seem to have been either triggered by or woven around a few central ideas e.g., The Minuses, around the relationships between women and nature; Instinctive Acts, around immigration and identity; Mind of Spring, around facets of personal and military wars; Landscape of The Wait, around your nephew’s car accident. Do you arrive at the idea first and then compose around the idea or does the idea emerge from the writing, informed by the obsessions at a given period of time?
  2. What are your primary concerns when constructing a poem? Are you like Frost trying to make each poem as different from the previous as possible? Or do you think that couldn’t be?
  3. In an interview with Colorado State University, you said “I tend not to bypass what’s present, but instead use it as the prompt from which to write.” In that context, how do you arrive at meaning, or do you consciously not and allow the reader to arrive at it? How important is intention in a particular piece within a themed collection?
  4. What made you a writer?
  5. What does it mean/suggest for you to think about your craft with each published work? If you were to associate an image with the development timeline of your writing craft what would that look like?
  6. In pushing your work beyond your first title what were you most conscious of? What were/are you trying to achieve?
  7. Are there any books that you keep visiting for inspiration?
  8. Do you train your subconscious in certain ways to deal with success or rejection?
  9. How do you deal with aspects of writing that provoke negative emotions such as self-doubt, failure, exasperation? Is there an emotional ritual/practice you follow to deal with that?

The Artisanal Writer editors bestowed upon my responses a lightening accompaniment.

Fulgur Conditum!

Read my nine responses here!

May you find lightening buried among them.

Within the interview, I offer a five-minute recorded reading from the poems of The Minuses.

(Find the recording after the ninth question.)

Listen to the reading here!

: :

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

+ Thank you bows to Sabyasachi (Sachi) Nag and The Artisanal Writer for the gift of inquiry and space to respond.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to 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 (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!

! Books !

Dear Reader! Dear Listener!

On July 8, 2021, I read poems from The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University, 2020) with Nigerian poet Saddiq Dzukogi, who read from his heart moving collection, Your Crib, My Qibla, (University of Nebraska Press, 2021) and Taos, New Mexico Poet Laureate Catherine Strisik, author of Insectum Gravitis (Main Street Rag, 2019), who read beautiful new poems.

Listen to the reading here! (passcode: m2eJp=C^)

Saddiq’s, My, and Catherine’s books nestled together!

One of the special, expanding benefits of reading via Zoom is that my community of beloveds from far and wide can be with. For the July 8th reading, my dear friends from Berlin joined us from their island vacation spot in Sweden via cell phone. In the year two thousand twenty-one, this can be! Plus, friends from Vancouver, BC any outlying areas could join. The photo below features Vincent K. Wong’s phone with the tree of Spanish Banks Beach listening in.

: :

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

+ Thank you bows to Catherine Strisik for bringing Saddiq Dzukogi, me, and her together in a sweet and delightful community of poets and listeners.

+ Thank you bows to the souls who joined us from all over North America and Europe!

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to 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 (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!

! Books !

Dear Reader, Dear Reader!

On June 24, 2021 my poem “Thin Attachment,” published first in Arc Poetry Magazine 71

and then within my poetry collection, The Minuses, was the featured poem on Poetry Daily!

Read “Thin Attachment“!

: :

Today, June 28, my poem “Lustrous Fugitive,” first published in the “Invisibility” issue (18:1) of Vallum magazine,

is Vallum Poem-of-the-Week!

Read & listen to “Lustrous Fugitive“!

: :

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

+ Thank you bows to Arc Poetry Magazine and editors Monty Reid and Shade Rhodes for their confidence in my work.

+ Thank you bows to Poetry Daily and the team at poems.com for their support to this poet, this poem, and for every step the Poetry Daily staff make in support of poets and their poetry.

+ Thank you bows to Vallum magazine, editor, Eleni Zisimatos, and managing editor Leigh Kotsilidis for their confidence in my work and for crowning my Poem-of-the-Week.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to 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 (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!

++ THE MINUSES ++

Canadian poet Daphne Marlatt is a plus around The Minuses! I love her poetry and person very much. On and off for the last 15 years, we’ve met for coffee and conversation about poetry and spiritual practice. Our conversations have been sites of candor and infusions of hope.

During the fall of 2018 our exchanges became more frequent. Her wise counsel and cheerful shoulder were of special support to me during the summer of 2019 when I was despairing that The Minuses was still publisher-less.

So, of course on September 3, 2019 (Labor Day!), when I learned from Stephanie G’Schwind that the Center for Literary Publishing wanted to publish The Minuses, Daphne was at the top of my list of those with whom to share the great good news. During that celebratory conversation I asked her if she would endorse my book.

I use the word “endorse” instead of “blurb.” Why? Because “blurb” sounds like spit up to me. I don’t want to associate spit up with my poems. This may be a form of superstition. Poets can be superstitious. I can be superstitious. I’d rather associate enthusiasm with my poems.

Anyway! Daphne said Yes!

After she read The Minuses Daphne sent me a note that included these words, which made my poet’s heart explode in bloom:

Hi Jami,
Well, you have a marvellous ms. here!  I was totally immersed in it.  A blurb has been difficult to word to do it justice…

-Daphne Marlatt

Daphne uses the word “blurb.” So, I looked it up in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. I thought its first use would be quite recent. However, the first known use of “blurb” as a noun is 1907, while the first known use of “blurb” as a verb comes eight years later in 1915. The neologism was coined by American humorist Gelett Burgess. I’m not convinced. After typing the word this many times, my stomach is turning. You see? The word has that affect on me. I remain resolute in not using it.

Back and front covers of The Minuses

Here’s the form of enthusiasm Daphne offered for the back cover of The Minuses:

Jami Macarty’s poems draw us into the vagaries of human love, just as they implicate us in the “menagerie of the surviving world.” These marvellously immersive poems of the Sonoran Desert and of our human deserts of the heart insist on each step taken, each present moment’s opening perception. Macarty’s lines nudge us toward non-dual Buddhist emptiness in each gap, each leap beyond wording.  A must-read.

-Daphne Marlatt

I wrote it once, but it’s worth writing again. I love Daphne Marlatt’s poetry. I have loved it for a long time. For me, Daphne’s poetry is a horizon. So, it’s especially special to have her endorsement and energy with me and the poems of The Minuses.

Even though I received the copy of The Minuses earmarked for Daphne in mid-February, travel and Covid-19 postponed our celebratory get-together for months.

On July 13, we finally felt it safe enough to commune at our favored outdoor café, Wilder Snail, for an afternoon coffee and conversationand so that I could bestow on Daphne her copy of The Minuses.

Here’s the photographic record I made of Daphne unwrapping…

The Minuses is unwrapped and Daphne’s mask is off!

Don’t you just love the look on her face?

I do!

That’s my poetry book The Minuses in Daphne Marlatt’s hands!

A poet is happy!

: : : :

+ Thank you bows to Daphne Marlatt for her support to me over these years, for reading The Minuses, and for offering her special words in support of the poems.

+ 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 or comments, write me!

++ THE MINUSES ++

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.

: : : :

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...

: : : :

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.”

: : : :

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.

: : : :

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.

: : : :

+ 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!

The Minuses

Allow me to share with you some of the words that have congregated around The Minuses during the intervening months since my last post.

Some of those words took air in interviews; interviews, those blessed conversations—

February 13: With Susan Gillis on her blogspot, Concrete & River, Susan and I talk about the forces that bring us to poetry and the movement that combines ecological and feminist concerns—ecofeminism.

Of the ignitions to poetry, I talk about a begining bird, the color yellow, and the first formerly memorized poem of my life, which is from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. Here’s an excerpt of “Time to Rise”:

           A birdie with a yellow bill
           Hopped upon the window sill.
           Cocked his shiny eye and said :
          ‘Ain’t you ’shamed, you sleepy-head ?’

Birds Don’t Shame is the title of Susan’s and my conversation; visit Concrete & River to read more about why I don’t think so.

: : : :

February 20: With Jess Turner, Managing Editor of Colorado Review, at the Center for Literary Publishing blog, where Jess casts expansive inquiry, and I make my answers in the now of our conversation.

Perhaps because my logic is circular, Jess gave our conversation the title: “She acknowledges the circle. / There is no obvious beginning,” taking two lines from the poem,”The Calling” in The Minuses. Here’s the poem in its entirety:

The Calling

                        of something within

Rather than investigate meaning

                        or make a world of thought

                        she acknowledges the tendency

                        of a broken line to curve.

She acknowledges the circle.

There is no obvious beginning.

The circle navigated by coordinates

                        polar, parametric, Cartesian.

Each point a locus of all points

                        holds to itself.

She edges the circumference

                                    leans far out from the edge

                        to fulfill her attraction

                        to what withdraws.

The height a bird flies depends on the bird.

A conversation is circular; take in Jess’s and mine: “She acknowledges the circle. / There is no obvious beginning,”

: : : :

Thank you bows to Susan Gillis and Jess Turner for the gift of conversation!

Thank you bows to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention!