Happy April!

Hurrah dear reader, you are here!

In these monthly ish dispatches I share with you my writer’s and reader’s experiences—about my books, about the books of others, about my writing practice, and my reading practice.

Happy National Poetry Month!

“April is the cruellest month, breeding” is the line that opens “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot. Ninety-nine years after the publication of the seminal, Modernist poem that opening line is the prompt for the celebration of the twenty-fifth annual National Poetry Month in the United States of America. Since 1998, Canada has also been celebrating poetry during April; this is the 23rd annual celebration of National Poetry Month across the ten provinces and three territories in Canada.

: : : :

In March, my during-the-pandemic-published poetry collection, The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), celebrated its first year anniversary. What a year! The pandemic has left me reeling. The tremendous amount of loss—of precious lives and of the smaller stuffs of my normal way of life. With the grief and reckoning ongoing, I’m finding it harder to take pleasure and feeling lethargic. Of course, that’s playing a role in my sense of being in flow with my writing and reading practices, and in my sense of productivity and accomplishment.

And. Through this stream of loss and lethargy flows some “pluses” around The Minuses. What are “the pluses”? Reviews, interviews, and events I and my poems have been lucky to receive. In this post, I share with you excerpts from the review Lacy Aul, aka Claudia Keelan, offered The Minuses in Interim. Though the review was published late December 2020, I’ve been revisiting it as a lethargy-booster, to remind me of what I seek in language. Below, I also share with you the YouTube link to the year anniversary reading I gave for the Tucson-based poetry group POG. And, I take account of some of the books I read in March, the third month of my fourth annual personal Big Read:  #mypersonalBigRead2021.

: : : :

What Is Missing Lives in What Is Found: On The Minuses by Jami Macarty—a review by Lacy Aul, aka Claudia Keelan

The Minuses is a collection of poems that locates origin in the ongoing energy of the physical world. Dedicated to “The One who renders this ground known and unknown,” The Minuses renders such a ground by showing how the phenomenal nature of wind, trees, birds, plants—in essence all vegetable, mineral and nonhuman entities—exist in parity with the contingent nature of their function in time. Indeed, while even human-made-things—such as doorways, windows, and public parks, also provide insight in the transparency of their use value—human beings in The Minuses are often dependent upon an a priori understanding of existence, which hinders them from observing their likewise conditional roles on the earth we share.” —from What Is Missing Lives in What Is Found: On The Minuses by Jami Macartyby Lacy Aul

Lacy Aul, Claudia Keelan‘s penname, offered The Minuses a review that made birds fly out of the top of my head in Volume 36: Issue 5 of Interim, the all women’s 2020 print issue, whose publication is supported by the English Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and by the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute

Interim, edited by Claudia Keelan, gave a home to two poems from The Minuses: “Reverse of Shadow” appeared in Volume 27 / Number 1 & 2 / 2009. “You Is to Door as I Is to Door” (retitled: “Door Ratio”) appeared in Volume 30 / Issue 1 & 2 / 2013.

The presiding spirit of inquiry in The Minuses would make such a world where oppositions parlay to form a whole… The urge towards completeness in the book finds itself in constant combat with a counter spirit whose innate, if cowardly, function is to further divide—human from earth, self from other, man from woman, body from soul—into the ultimate opposition that is war. The proponents of subtraction deals in the language of one to one comparison: “I cannot say who you are without saying who I am” (21, “Reverse of Shadow”). Unstuck in time where impossibly “The past increases within the present,” (30, ”Equals Rain”) and “What you say is our future / is your future” (31, “Door Ratio”), the protagonists of opposition bully those whose loyalty towards the possibility of the “all” insures their victimization and silence.—from What Is Missing Lives in What Is Found: On The Minuses by Jami Macarty by Lacy Aul

Interim and Claudia Keelan have been wonderfully, indispensably supportive to me and my work. Claudia also wrote a generous, sweet something for the back cover of The Minuses.

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.
—from Claudia Keelan for the back cover of The Minuses.

: : : :

POG Arts Tucson Reading, March 20, 2020

Jami Macarty lives and writes very much in the world you and I occupy, one in which we entangle with each other, have mutual responsibilities, give incredible gifts, yet don’t always treat the other or even oneself so well… There is no avoidance of the world in Macarty’s work, that world which may be disgraced and marked by serial killing, and be in need of painkillers. Yet there is also a mind intent on salvaging what is of use, a practice that will bring us tiger stamina to survive, a certainty that we are and can be though perhaps “a burning fragment,” still a fragment, “in the menagerie of the surviving world.” Macarty understands the wonders of place… One constant in her writing which seems to embrace her sense of place, literal and metaphoric, is a persistent dwelling in and within the sounds of language, sometimes expressed in a marvelous consonantal barrage of alliteration… I think we are fortunate tonight to walk our ears and minds in her particular “circus circumstance.” from Charles Alexander‘s introduction

On March 20, 2021, I celebrated the one year anniversary of The Minuses by giving a reading with Jeanne Heuving for the people of POG: Poetry in action! This is the second time I’ve read for the Tucson-based poetry group. The first reading was in 2005, a month or so before I moved from Tucson to Vancouver. For that reading I was live and in person, standing at a microphone at Cushing Street Bar in Downtown Tucson. For this second reading, fifteen and a half years later, I offered my poems over Zoom from my apartment in Vancouver. Jeanne Heuving zoomed in from Seattle, our hosts from Tucson, and forty souls joined us from locales in between.

Jeanne Heuving and I had been trying for a reading together for a while, so I was happy to finally roost at POG with her and her marvelous poems from Mood Indigo.

Listen to the POG Arts Tucson reading on YouTube!

: : : :

What I read in March: #mypersonalBigRead2021

Now, allow me to share with you what I read during March. Because March is Women’s History Month and because I had not yet read a single chapbook, I read mostly chapbooks and mostly volumes by women during the third month of the year.

In the photos above are some of the chapbooks I read in March. Let me fill in the blanks of the peeking titles at the edges. In the third photo: on the left edge, Paper Work, by Matea Kulić, and on the right edge maybe, basically, by Tracy Waide Boer, both published by Anstruther.

Other wonderful chapbook publishers of the above: Effing Press, Finishing Line Press, Frog Hollow Press, Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies Press, Madhouse Press, Nomados Literary Publishers, Omnidawn Publishing, Porkbelly Press, and SpeCt! Books.

Among the women writers above who most inspire me: Nicole Brossard, Daphne Marlatt, Hoa Nguyen, Dayna Patterson, Emily Pérez, Christine Stewart, and Lissa Wolsak; I thank them for their ongoing support and inspiration and conversation.

Chapbooks! I used to think lesser of them. That is, that they were lesser forms of publication. I think I picked up that judgment from the prevailing winds within poetry… Over time and reading, my attitude evolved… Then, between 2017 and 2018, three chapbooks containing my work were published; I found that process completely gratifying. Now I feel the complete opposite; “lesser than” has morphed to “more than”—enough. I find chapbooks special and exciting and enchanting. I respond especially to the short but intense spell they cast. Right now, with my mushy ish, hard-to-keep-interested-brain (what others are calling “pandemic brain”), the length, intensity, and ephemerality of chapbooks are a perfect match. They are a manageable read, and that makes me feel like I can accomplish some reading. Hurrah chapbooks!

: : : :

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

+ Thank you bows to poet and reviewer and horizon Claudia Keelan, for her expansively attentive, made birds fly out of my head, generous review of The Minuses, and to Interim for ongoing support of my poetry.

+Thank you bows to Charles Alexander et al at POG for making space for me to read my poems; to Charles again for his charming introduction, and to Jeanne Heuving for sharing her poems and the Zoom stage with me on March 20, 2020.

+ Thank you bows to the writers and publishers who brought their grand accomplishments of chapbooks and books into the world for keeping me company and inspiring me in March.

+ 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 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 ++

Welcome, dear reader! You are most welcome here, where I share information about my and others’ books. Topics such as my reading and reviewing practice, my composition methods, writing and publishing process are taken up here.

The Minuses, my full-length collection, was published in February of this year, so recent posts have focused on what I’m referring to as “the pluses congregating” around The Minuses. Like a constellation of plus (+) signs, reviews, interviews, and readings offered in support of The Minuses shine their positive light and sprinkle sparkling stardust made up of the wondrous generosity of strangers, the special magic of collaboration, and the creative powers of community.

photos and montage created by Vincent K. Wong

Speaking of creative powers, the images and montage of my book above were created by my friend and photographer, Vincent Wong, who also took the author photo on the book’s back cover. Vincent and I met in an Simon Fraser University course I offered in 2012. From that day forward, Vincent has generously shared his creativity with me. He is a front and center collaborator with whom I have expansive art-talk and fun art walks.

Speaking of the generosity of strangers, Holly Mason offered to The Minuses an absolutely gorgeous, close reading-review at Entropy on September 14, 2020. This review sprung into being, in part, from my wondering about reviews, which put to a women’s writers group to which I belong this Q: Does a poet ask, wait, or hope for a review? I was wondering how proactive to be in inviting a review. From that simple gesture of willingness to ask a question, I received an abundance of supportive responses, offering perspective, information, and ideas for actions I could take. This women’s group is amazing! My query also brought to me the lovely Holly Morgan Mason, who said she’d like to offer a review to The Minuses.

Turns out, Holly and I had brushed poetry paths a few years ago. I didn’t remember, but Holly graciously reminded me that our poems had both been finalists in the Real Good Poem Prize, hosted by Rabbit Catastrophe Review. Kiki Petrosino, the prize’s judge, ended up selecting the title poem of The Minuses as prize winner, and in the process began the bringing together of Holly and me to be fulfilled these years later. I love this connection through the years with Holly; it enriches my sense of the potential of community. It’s been a special delight to reconnect with Holly, and an honor to receive the gift of her attention to my poems. Here’s an excerpt from her beautiful review:

The poems in this book are masterfully calibrated. The pacing is slow, careful, meditative throughout. There is space to breathe around the lines. Macarty’s phrasing delights and surprises. Like in the poem “Equals Rain” with the line “We pace the aisle of what happened to the sky.” Or in “Related Sequence” which ends with these stunning and echoing lines: “Loosening September sky// The day feels its own weight and buckles// In a window, a lace dress hangs itself” and ends without punctuation, asking us to consider the implications of the image.

an excerpt of Holly Mason’s review of The Minuses, published in Entropy

Read the entire

Entropy review

by Holly Morgan Mason


: : : :

photos and montage created by Vincent K. Wong

The above montage reveals the sort of artist Vincent is; the sort who takes a desert book to the water! Largely set in the Sonoran Desert, The Minuses dearly appreciates being at the beach, near the water, and in the rain from above. Quenching!

Speaking of being in service of writing community, rob mclennan, invited me to participate in his project 12 or 20 (second series) Questions. My responses were published on September 17, 2020. rob and I have known each other via discussions on first books of poetry since 2008 ish. He’s a deeply engaged and community-minded poetry soul.

rob put to me all 20 of his series’ questions, which spanned topics such as first encounters with poetry, how poems begin, engaging in public readings, theoretical concerns behind my writing, and the role of the poet/poetry. Spending time with these questions, allowed me to contemplate and consider the map my creative life, including coordinates associated with best advice, moving between genres, collaboration, and influence. I’m entirely grateful to rob!

Here’s my response to 12 – When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

For me, it’s not so much that writing stalls. Writing continues, is continuous. Instead, it’s the ego that intervenes and enforces its will on the words. Or, it’s attitude (for me, especially, frustration at how long it’s taking) that gets in the way of the flow and stalls it. I’ve learned (mostly!) to recognize when persistence will be a case of diminishing returns. So, rather than put up my dukes, I take a break. More often than not I go for a walk. Solvitur ambulando! During these times, I don’t have a sense of needing to be inspired, but rather needing to clear a clog or shift attention. Sometimes there’s this sense that what’s unfolding in the writing needs some privacy. So, stepping away, looking away can give it some necessary space. The break has to take place at the energetic, kinesthetic level. Taking a shower, preparing food might also provide space. That’s day to day. Thinking longer term, to meet a sense of staleness, I make visual collages. Often the collages provide an image and color palette for a poem. To bring energy and myself back to words, I invent wild, impossible, contortionist writing constraints that are part goose chase and part scavenger hunt. To meet loneliness, I collaborate with another writer, sending weekly responsive transmissions back and forth. Since September 2019, I and poet, Sean Singer, have been writing a poem together; it’s 36 pages long so far. Or, I may elect to write in community a poem a day with some other poets.

-my response to rob mclennan’s question #12

Read the entire

12 or 20 (second series) Questions



: : : :

+ Thank you bows to lovely person and fine poet Holly Morgan Mason for her gorgeous, full-of-care review of The Minuses; bows also to Entropy and staff for making a place for Holly’s review of my poetry collection.

+ In delightful association, thank you bows to Rabbit Catastrophe Review, the host of the Real Good Poem Prize, and the 2016 prize judge Kiki Petrosino, who selected the title poem of The Minuses as prize winner, and in the process began the bringing together of Holly and me to be fulfilled these years later.

+ Thank you bows to most generous, community-minded rob mclennan for the invitation to participate in his 12 or 20 Questions Series; bows also to rob for his immense support of the poetry community.

+ 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 with me.

+ 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 artistic friendship, creative collaboration, and for taking my author photos.

+ Thank you bows (continuous!) to you, dear reader, for the gift of your attention! If you have any questions or comments, write me!