Hole in the Head Review

I’m buried in other projects (good ones!) and am woefully behind on all-things-bloggery, but wanted to share this beautiful cover from the newest edition of Hole in the Head Review. It knocks my socks off. You can click on the table of contents of any issue and take a peek at the contents. To see my poems in volume 4, no. 2 (5.01.23), follow this link: https://www.holeintheheadreview.com/post/bethany-reid

To see the story behind the cover image, visit the editor’s notes page: https://www.holeintheheadreview.com/post/editor-s-notes-6

And take a look through their archives for more poetry and reviews. They have a tip jar if you feel like supporting this wonderful on-line venture.

Everything Has Two Handles

Over the years, in my quest to keep learning more about the craft of writing, I seem to have subscribed to a number of self-helpery blogs. Usually I delete the notifications without reading. Occasionally I take the time to unsubscribe. This morning, this title caught my eye and I clicked on it and read all the way through.

Beautiful and timely.

I’ve been writing a story that attempts to address the Greek idea of aporia — so this paragraph was important:

Everything is an opportunity for excellence. The now famous passage from Marcus Aurelius is that the impediment to action advances action, that what stands in the way becomes the way. But do you know what he was talking about specifically? He was talking about difficult people! He was saying that difficult people are an opportunity to practice excellence and virtue–be it forgiveness or patience or cheerfulness. And so it goes for all the things that are not in our control in life. So when I find myself in situations big and small, positive or negative, I try to see each of them as an opportunity for me to be the best I’m capable of being in that moment. It doesn’t matter who we are, where we are, we can always do this.

-Ryan Holiday

I could quote from almost all 14 points, but I especially needed to hear, “You don’t have to have an opinion about everything.” (A choice one of my daughters is making, for instance.) Here’s the link:


To Be of Use

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who listened to my radio interview and emailed or called. David Gilmour has to get at least half the credit, and Steve Nebel, sound engineer. I love it that you loved it.

And my apologies for being so absent this past month. I had good intentions — definitely meant to review a poetry book once a week in August — and instead let myself be swept up in a number of deadlines to be met (or slightly overshot…), one of which is still hovering.

But here’s what I want to focus on this morning.

Tuesday mornings for the past five years — or many Tuesday mornings, Fall, Spring, and Summer — I have been volunteering at my church, pulling weeds and pruning or whatever my “boss,” Fran, tells me to do. I’ve learned a lot about gardening from Fran, and though we didn’t often stand around talking, I got to know her through her work. Her plaid workshirt, her short gray cap of curls, her ready smile on seeing me. “Ah! You’re finally here!” Her incredible assortment of power tools.

Then, a couple weeks ago, Fran died.

I cannot tell you how shocked I was. Yes, she was almost 85, but we have numerous active members at our church who are in their 90s. I was expecting Fran to be one of those. She died on a Sunday afternoon, a few days before her birthday, while working in her backyard.

In addition to being in charge of the church landscaping, Fran worked behind the scenes in almost every aspect of church life. I set aside the work for any excuse, and never put in more than my 90 minutes or 2 hours weekly (and felt virtuous about it), but for her the work was a calling, and a joy.

Marge Piercy

Ever since hearing the news of Fran’s death, I have been thinking of this poem, which someone gave me in my first year of teaching — it was on various office walls almost my entire career. I’m pleased to say that, after I sent the poem to him, my pastor read it at Fran’s memorial.

It’s my privilege this morning to share this poem with you. (See the poem at Poetry Foundation for the correct formatting.)

To Be of Use

The people I love best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and muck to pull things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry,
and a person for work that is real.

From Circles in the Water (1982, Knopf)

RadioTacoma 101.9

This evening (August 17, 2023) at 8 p.m. PST, thanks to Radio Tacoma 101.9, and to Steve Nebel, you can hear me, reading my poems and in conversation with Sound Poetry host David Gilmour.

No idea what our two hours together will be condensed to, so I’m eager to hear it, too.

If you can’t listen this evening, it will be archived on their website:


and https://radiotacoma.org/sound-poetry-archive-2023

You can donate to this wonderful program, too (see the archives for Sound Poetry for interviews/readings with Robert Michael Pyle, Michael Daley, T. Clear, Koon Woon, and many other northwest treasures).

And be sure to drop me a line, comment here, or you can email me at bethany.alchemy@gmail.com.


NOTE: I have updated the link to the archive so it will take you to the 2023 file.