Big Poetry Giveaway

I plan to do the drawing on Tuesday, May 5, at Writer’s Lab. I’ll let you know results then! (See my April 13 blogpost to learn more.) Thank you to everyone who commented and emailed me!

Karen Whalley, “Family of Hard Workers”

So many poets, so little time. I barely dented my book collection, and left out so many other favorites. Next year, thirty more?

For the last day of National Poetry Month, I am pleased to recommend the poetry of my friend, Karen Whalley. I have loved Karen’s poems for nearly 30 years, ever since our mutual professor, Nelson Bentley, put us on a Castalia Reading program together. This poem, from her collection, The Rented Violin (Ausable Press, 2003), resides in the vast class of “poems I wish I had written.”

If I were giving assignments, this one might inspire us to write about what-happened, vs. what-didn’t-happen, and what that might have looked like.




I would like to forget
That I come from a family of hard workers:
Grandfather of axe handles carved
For the Georgia railroad, Grandmother
Of thirteen children flinging feed for the chickens
From a fifty-pound bag, forgive me,
I forget you. And if my father glorifies
What is, in actuality, a certain lack of choices
On the part of his relatives
Who rose at the cock’s crow
And made a day so similar to the one before it
That if someone asked what they’d done that day,
They would stand with their hands in their pockets
Then give you their one answer:
I whittled an axe handle. I fed the chickens. 
Then forgive me for not doing that, too.

Once, I kept a carved statue of a horse
On my window sill,
The right front leg crooked, like a little finger
Which made the horse seem always in motion.
It’s all I remember about the horse,
The arched leg ready to step
Into the green pastures of my imagination
And thrum with its hooves,
Churning up grass, unhaltered, unsaddled,
Its huge head rivening the wind.
Better if my family had said:
You come from a family
Where beauty matters.
Look at the horse, now,
Running for joy. 

Finally, I can’t resist adding a link to Kathleen Flenniken’s The Far Field, with a poem by Professor Bentley:

Kevin Craft, “My Clone”

“[By the estate of poetry], I do not mean the estate over which the poetic imagination rules, whose bounds we do not know. Each poet has nothing more than a right of entry to it, and a patch of ground which he is at liberty to cultivate….by cultivating his holding each poet adds to the world of poetic imagination, and that therefore it can never be regarded as completely embodied — reason for discouragement and hope, and an earnest of the continuance of poetry.” Edwin Muir, The Estate of Poetry (1)

It had been awhile since I googled my friend, poet and editor extraordinaire Kevin Craft. It was a rewarding experience. Since our paths have diverged, his work on Poetry Northwest has continued to expand a well-deserved reputation. Here is a poem from his first book, Solar ProminenceMay there be many more.


frowns when he finds out he’s not alone.
Was grown from cells
scraped from the inside of my cheek.
I’m nobody’s second string,

he insists to the talk show host
egging us on. (Loud applause
from the studio audience.) I’m a self-
made man, not the other

way around. Steely-eyed and neatly
groomed, he’s as brash
as a dressing room mirror.
Backstage he takes me aside.

Nothing personal, he admits, running a hand
through his long black hair.
They put us on to air our differences,
is all. Thought I’d play ball.

He does, in fact, play soccer
in the Italian leagues.
He was shipped at cell’s first division
to a western fertility lab,

so that we grew up on opposite coasts, a case
of nurture versus second
nature. He is savvy
beyond his years and makes me seem

thwarted and unsure. And now he sniffs
at the guestroom cabernet, smoking a fat cigar.
Is this what it means to turn the other cheek?
Perhaps, he says, stretching

out on the double bed as if
he counts the same sheep I do before sleep
or reads the Dadaists for moral instruction.
As for second guessing, he adds,

you’re not the only one.

Valerie Martinez, “Rock and Marrow”

I came across VALERIE MARTÍNEZ at the Taos Summer Writers Conference, several years ago. I attended a reading, I think, though maybe it was a panel, and I bought her book, World to World, which I have been lucky to own ever since, and will be giving away in The Big Poetry Giveaway. (See my blogpost on April 13 for more information.)

Lisa D. Chavez calls these poems “lush and lovely” and notes that they “speak the secret languages of desire.” I like that “languages,” plural. Although the poems are in English, reading them you can drop through, into other levels of language, like the “dark coin” of a child’s eye, or the doors that “become doors.” Here is something short, but richly evocative in exactly that way. You may also notice that with the “you” of the sixth line, and the directive of the sentence after, it becomes an instruction poem.


Yes, yes, the inside of morning
is cheekbone, elbow, pelvis.
Elsewhere, as the chlorophyll shrinks
earthward, so does the steady rain.
I imagine the center of the planet
hot and colorful. You see,
it needn’t always be vivid and visible.
Lie low in this monochrome
tangle of limbs. I like it
vague and warm at the center
of the densest of things.