Giving Thanks for 2022

This afternoon (Dec. 31) I helped pick up fir and cedar limbs in our backyard and now my arm is twanging. It’s been 4 weeks! Isn’t it fine now?

But I promised myself I would do an end-of-the year round up of my submissions, and I’m not going to let my arm stop me.

If you’re looking for on-line and print venues for your poems and other writings, maybe this post will be of interest to you, too.

In 2022 I made 101 submissions of poetry, and 28 of prose pieces.

Sixteen venues said yes to 22 poems, one story, one CNF (creative nonfiction piece), and two book reviews. If you’re new to sending out your work, this is actually a very good return.

One poem won a contest: Edmonds Arts Council, Poets Perspective; one poem was Pushcart-nominated; and one received a Best of the Net nomination.

In an earlier post this year I shared that I had a goal of 100 rejections in 2022. I didn’t make it. I heard a firm “no” only 71 times and among those I had a number of encouraging notes and invitations to resubmit. (It’s all good, in other words.) A large number of poems and about 4 essays are still out, some from as long ago as February, 2022, so I could (conceivably) get to my 100 rejections.

Of course it’s way more fun to look at the acceptances. I’ve shared a few of these over the year, but recently the mail brought my contributor copy of Catamaran, a journal which, if you don’t know it, you should. As their banner says: “West Coast themes, Writers and Artists from Everywhere.” My poem, “A Mask of Forgetting,” is paired with art by Elizabeth Fox, and the whole thing is beautifully put together, well worth the trip.

This month I also received a contributor copy of Peregrine, from Amherst Poets & Writers. They picked up two of my poems: “Reading Andrew Motion’s Biography of John Keats,” and “Every Cell of Me.” I appreciate all the on-line journals now encouraging writers, but it’s still a treat to get a copy of a real, flesh-and-bone journal.

Speaking of poems-paired-with-amazing-art: check out my poem, “Lessons in Beekeeping,” at Open: A Journal of Arts & Letters. The art, “Old Bee Farm,” by Clara Southern, is perfect.

And, though I’ve mentioned it before, I want to tell you again about Escape Into Life, which I consider one of my luckiest finds ever. Kathleen Kirk and the review editor, Seana Graham, have been incredibly generous to me. (Not to mention the prize nominations. Well, okay, to mention them.) Over the years they’ve published quite a few of my poems, and book reviews, always pairing the poems with gorgeous art, as in their recent Dog Days 2022 feature, with art by Elke Vogelsang.

I’ve been sending out poetry for decades, and I have very little ego invested in the process. Prose send-outs, however, and prose acceptances, are fairly new for me. For a long time, I would once in a while (every other year or so) send a story out, and then I’d be discouraged and forget about it. Taking a Creative Nonfiction class where we are REQUIRED to submit work to journals has broken me of that bad habit. Earlier this year I was hugely proud to have an essay about my mother, “My Mother’s Birthday in Ireland,” published at Chautauqua; and to see my fourth published short story picked up by Kithe (another gorgeous print journal).


Kithe (kai-the) is an old Scottish word that means to make or become known. At Kithe, we believe that all creative endeavors are an effort to be made known. We show through our language and our art what and who we are, and in doing so, we are made known to one another.  –from their website

Very recent acceptances — and definitely journals or websites for you to check out — are Descant, The Bookends Review, Empty Bowl Press, and Braided Way: Faces & Voices of Spiritual Practice. 

All done bragging. I hope this is helpful to you in some way. Now, to put my arm back in the sling and find the ice pack. And maybe sneak out for one more walk today.

In 2023, I hope you write.


Winter Solstice Greetings

Here in my neighborhood north of Seattle, Washington, we have had our second snowfall of the year—about three inches yesterday and the evening before. Today, it’s 27 degrees (low of 19!) and the sun is shining. Outside my window: glittering white.

On December 1st, despite slush and ice, I set out for a long afternoon walk, and I slipped on a patch of ice, fell hard, and cracked the head of my left radius bone, right up there in my elbow. I was in a fiberglass splint—looked like and felt like a big ol’ cast—for 7 days. The initial evaluation suggested the crack went all the way through. I couldn’t use my arm, I couldn’t get it wet, couldn’t practice my Christmas songs on the piano, couldn’t wear my Christmas sweaters. I couldn’t type! It took me four or five days just to figure out how to wear clothes and leave the house.

I saw the orthopedic surgeon on day seven, expecting to be told I’d need surgery. Instead, he said the crack was partial, and “No surgery,” plus—amazing grace—no cast! In his opinion the crack would heal just fine if I didn’t lift, push, or pull with my left arm, or fall down again. He showed me how a single week of having the arm in the splint had weakened my grip, and compromised my ability to move my wrist or do simple things like touch my head. (Try flossing your teeth when you have only one arm.) “That’s not from the break; that’s from having your arm immobilized. If you wear a cast for six or eight weeks, you’ll need physical therapy for a year!”

He said I could do “light kitchen work” and—more important—“you can type.”

I admit to having entirely lost my Christmas spirit. I’m only now getting it back. Partially.

Nonetheless, over the last few weeks I have been co-leader of an Advent study at my church. I committed to it in October, after all, and my primary role in the group is merely to bring poems. Easy peasy. I’ve collected both traditional Advent poems by well-known Christian writers such as Madeleine L’Engle and Oscar Romero, and poems that might not spring to mind when we’re talking about Bethlehem, gentle donkeys, shepherds guarding their flocks by night, and the birth of a savior in a stable.

Not that such poems can’t be wonderful. (Of course they are.) I guess what I’ve been after is to broaden our context, to make us see the Advent season in the light of our own lives.

Advent first began in the 4th century as a period of penance for new converts. It didn’t lead to December 25, like an Advent calendar with little chocolates inside, but to Epiphany (January 6). Advent comes from the Latin, adventus, meaning “arrival” or “coming,” and from the Greek, parousia, which is also translated as “presence,” especially, “presence after absence” (or second coming). Back then, Advent was sometimes referred to as “the Lent of St. Martin’s” (and began on St. Martin’s day, November 11). Also, it was considered heretical to associate the Christian season too heavily with the winter solstice—too pagan. Sorry, but for me that’s exactly what’s evoked, and why I was drawn toward wanting to take part in the class. Well, light and an adventure.

I’ve made some surprising discoveries. In the book my co-leader assigned, Jill Duffield’s Advent in Plain Sight: A Devotion through Ten Objects, the first object is “gates.” I love that—I did a little digging and learned that the word “gate” appears 418 times in the King James Bible. In my introduction to the poems, I talked about how a gate can seem to be a barrier, but it’s really an invitation. A gate marks a path to be followed.

Poems, too, are gates. In my college teaching career I often encountered students who hated poetry. They saw a poem as a gate with a “no trespassing” sign hanging on it. But isn’t a poem, like a gate, an invitation? Open this. Walk through. See the world the way I see it. The first poem I brought was Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Kindness,” and the study group climbed onto the bus with me. “There’s communion here,” one participant gleefully noted. And another: “it’s a story of the good Samaritan!”

I found this short poem by Richard Bauckham on an Advent website, The Adventus Project. Details such as keeping vigil, a turn of the tide, and the cattle-shed roof lend it an Advent gloss, yet it’s multi-valent. A Druidic heart could be happy here. Bauckham is a theologian and poet who lives in Great Britain, but he could be my neighbor here in the Pacific Northwest in my house in the woods.

First Light

After all the false dawns,
who is this who unerringly paints
the first rays in their true colours?
We have kept vigil with owls
when the occult noises of the night
fell tauntingly silent
and a breeze got up
as if for morning.
This time the trees tremble.
Is it with a kind of reckless joy
at the gentle light
lapping their leaves
like the very first turn of a tide?
Timid creatures creep out of burrows
sensing kindness
and the old crow on the cattle-shed roof
folds his wings and dreams.

Richard Bauckham

My apologies for a somewhat wobbly, all-over-the place post. (Consider that I was told I wouldn’t be able to type for 6 weeks!)

Sunday evening at 11:00 my dog desperately needed a walk, so, despite the falling snow, we went out (with every caution for secure footing), and one reward was an owl hooting continuously from the snowy woods. No wonder my dog was restless. No wonder I love Bauckham’s poem: “We have kept vigil with owls.” Me, too.

It’s a gorgeous time of year, when you’re not all broken and needing a nap and a cookie (did you know that when you have a broken bone your body burns 20-30% more calories? Someone told me so—maybe just indulging my natural inclination).

When I first began gathering poems for the Advent class, I had a notion that the study participants would want to write with me. That didn’t happen (with the addition of a co-leader and the book, it became more conventional, which is fine), but it hasn’t kept me from writing. Early on, I came across a poem by Laura Walker titled “Psalm 100” (follow the link to read it for yourself). It made me open my Bible and reread Psalm 100. And then I wrote my own poem. Is it an Advent poem? Not really, unless you see it—like Bauckham’s poem—in a tradition of praise.

So, for solstice, here’s my poem in praise of light. From here on out, each day enjoy those extra few seconds of daylight.

Morning at Glen Cove

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
–Psalm 100, NIV

After a night of wind the cove sings.
Under cold water, a skein of herring,

above, a skein of glaucous-
winged gulls. Scraw of bald eagle

and great blue heron, sky
brimming, unfurled. In the early morning half-dark

sea lions bark, hoarse with so much praise.
Sunrise offers a kingfisher

chittering down the pink light.

Bethany Reid / 2022

I Made a Place for You

One cool perk of blogging is that occasionally complete strangers contact me out of the blue and ask if I would like to have a book. My answer is always, Yes! Book, please!

This week’s mail brought me a chapbook of poems from Atmosphere Press, a debut collection by Damian White, of Columbus, Ohio. When I receive poetry books, I often set them aside until my April poetry blogging binge (a book a day), but I Made a Place for You was just released, and I told Damian I would blog about it right away.

The poems are short—“language poetry crossed with gospel,” as one reviewer puts it—but they well up from the poet’s own life and are a testament to how dire circumstances (in White’s case, homelessness) can be “channeled … into poetry to heal a fractured identity.” Predictably the poems are often ontological, a chronicle of a spiritual journey.

God’s Typewriter

The Golden Rule of speech is
to speak when spoken through

Be a prophet of God’s whispers
sacral thoughts
resurrect the spine
unveil the stature of man
and poise his pen

Am I the poem or the poet?
words linger on my tongue
forlorn and ephemeral

I am more written than writer
an opus of cathartic scribble
unfurling my fleshiest truth

—Damian White

The first time through this poem I thought “sacral” was an error, but right after we get “resurrect the spine” and suddenly it’s all wordplay. The poet raises the old question (how do we tell the dancer from the dance?) but embeds it in the language arts. Poem or poet, more written than writer. We shape our writing, and writing shapes us. This of course is the secret that all poets know. We are our own opus.

Many of the poems are dark—“Pain gushes,” “Words abet,” we encounter “despair’s vile grip”—but in “Good Mourning,” the poet turns the darkness we are made of upside down: “We are soil. / Basal, vital, and better suited for / sunshine.” The darkness turns out to be only one edge, with the other catching the light.

I Made a Place for You is whimsically and colorfully illustrated by Francesco Orazzini, an Italian artist now living in Mexico City. And the book might be taken as whimsical (when you’re not fixed on the aforementioned dark edge). But there’s also that deepness to the poems, the wellspring of life experience, and a sense of poetry, once again, redeeming a life.

In the poet’s own words, one learns to speak “when spoken through.”

photo by pixabay

In Your Previous Life

In a previous life, I was a waitress…before that, a farm girl. I spent a lot of my farm-girl childhood pretending to be a horse named Stormy. I think somewhere in time I was a tree.

In my next life, I’d like to teach a class called “Writing YOUR Memorable Poem,” and this is one of the poems I plan to use.

It’s a weird poem, really, more a surreal little short story. But from the time I first came across it (almost 20 years ago, in The New Yorker), it has stayed with me. Maybe the spell James Tate (1943-2015) weaves has something to do with the repetition. (Dog, for the most startling instance, is repeated  9 times.)

Tate’s Poetry Foundation profile quotes from his interview with The Paris Review: “There is nothing better than [to move the reader deeply]. I love my funny poems, but I’d rather break your heart. And if I can do both in the same poem, that’s the best. If you laughed earlier in the poem, and I bring you close to tears in the end, that’s the best.” That’s exactly what this poem does for me.

The Promotion

I was a dog in my former life, a very good
dog, and, thus, I was promoted to a human being.
I liked being a dog. I worked for a poor farmer
guarding and herding his sheep. Wolves and coyotes
tried to get past me almost every night, and not
once did I lose a sheep. The farmer rewarded me
with good food, food from his table. He may have
been poor, but he ate well. And his children
played with me, when they weren’t in school or
working in the field. I had all the love any dog
could hope for. When I got old, they got a new
dog, and I trained him in the tricks of the trade.
He quickly learned, and the farmer brought me into
the house to live with them. I brought the farmer
his slippers in the morning, as he was getting
old, too. I was dying slowly, a little bit at a
time. The farmer knew this and would bring the
new dog in to visit me from time to time. The
new dog would entertain me with his flips and
flops and nuzzles. And then one morning I just
didn’t get up. They gave me a fine burial down
by the stream under a shade tree. That was the
end of my being a dog. Sometimes I miss it so
I sit by the window and cry. I live in a high-rise
that looks out at a bunch of other high-rises.
At my job I work in a cubicle and barely speak
to anyone all day. This is my reward for being
a good dog. The human wolves don’t even see me.
They fear me not.

—James Tate, Return to the City of White Donkeys (HarperCollins, 2004)

So here’s your assignment: who or what were you in a previous life? Was there something you accomplished in that life that landed you here?