Author copies of my chapbook From Every Moment a Second have arrived! These came directly from the printer, and according to Finishing Line Press the rest of the print run should soon be in their hands, and will be packed and shipped to buyers asap. So if you’ve ordered one, it really is on the way. Finally. Thank you for your patience!
How to Write a Poem
Learn to curse in three languages. When midday
yawns stack high and your eyelids flutter, fire up
the chain saw; there’s always something to dismember.
Make it new. Fear no bridges. Accelerate through
curves, and look twice before leaping over fires,
much less into them. Read bones, read leaves, read
the dust on shelves and commit to memory a thousand
discarded lines. Next, torch them. Take more than you
need, buy books, scratch notes in the dirt and watch
them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first
gusts. Gather words and courtesies. Guard them carefully.
Play with others, observe birds, insects and neighbors,
but covet your minutes alone and handle with bare hands
only those snakes you know. Mourn the kindling you create
and toast each new moon as if it might be the last one
to tug your personal tides. When driving, sing with the radio.
Always. Turn around instead of right. Deny ambition.
Remember the freckles on your first love’s left breast.
There are no one-way streets. Appreciate the fragrance
of fresh dog shit while scraping it from the boot’s sole.
Steal, don’t borrow. Murder your darlings and don’t get
caught. Know nothing, but know it well. Speak softly
and thank the grocery store clerk for wishing you
a nice day even if she didn’t mean it. Then mow the grass,
grill vegetables, eat, laugh, wash dishes, talk, bathe,
kiss loved ones, sleep, dream, wake. Do it all again.
“How to Write a Poem,” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.
All profits from this anthology published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus, a charity which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.
A Word is Not a Home
A word is not a home
but we set our tables
between its walls,
cook meals, annoy
friends, abuse ourselves.
Sometimes I misplace
one, and can’t find
my house, much less
the window’s desk
or the chair behind it.
But if I wait, something
always takes form in the fog,
an arm, a ribcage, a feathered
hope struggling to emerge.
Inept, I take comfort
in these apparitions,
accept their offerings,
lose myself in mystery,
find shelter there
in the hollowed curves.
I come here to sit quietly, emerging from my shack, if only briefly, to eavesdrop and observe, to sip beer and participate in the world of commerce. Ah, yes. The grocery store. If only all of them housed craft-beer bars. I place cilantro and shallots in my basket, add arugula, asparagus and a lime, and wander over to the fish case where two small fillets of Chilean sea bass, the commercial name for Patagonian toothfish, catch my eye.
Finally at the bar, I order Lone Pint Brewery’s Zeno’s Pale Ale, and overhear a disquisition on hydration and landscaping, and a conversation on war and snipers and gratitude. The ale arrives with a light, lacey head, exudes a bready malt profile upfront, and a pine-citrus punch at the back. I can’t quite uncover the truth of the flavor, but enjoy the search, and amidst the swirling combination of voices and beer I somehow think of Veronica Golos’ “Snow in April,” a ghazal in her stunning book Vocabulary of Silence.
“Has my flock of flowers died? An ambush, a bullet-shot
of cold. Undone beneath the snow, what’s truth, in April?”
What is the sniper’s truth? What gratitude might we find within April’s layers? I have no answers, only more questions, and with more questions comes thirst.
My second beer is a curious blend of old and new – a Belgian-style quadrupel that, don’t laugh, smells a bit like a cola, but in a good way. Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles is dark brown, let’s call it mahogany, with a fruity but mellow flavor and a toasty malt finish. And well balanced – with an alcohol content of 9%, it’s strong, but not too strong. Historical undercurrents flow through this brew, yet it also brings with it an appreciation of the new and popular, which leads to thoughts of one of my favorite poets, Frank Bidart, whose work often refers to and resonates with historical figures (in the book at hand, Watching the Spring Festival, Tu Fu and Catullus come to mind), and his poem “Sanjaya at 17,” referencing an American Idol contestant:
“There is a creature, among all others, one,
within whose voice there is a secret voice
which once heard
unlocks the door that unlocks the mountain.”
Today the mountain does not swing open for me. Perhaps a second Trois Pistoles might have done the trick, but instead, knowing I have to prepare dinner, starting with a compound butter of shallot, cilantro, garlic and lime zest, I request a mere taste of Founder’s Breakfast Stout, because, well, the idea of stout for breakfast has a certain appeal, though in my case would not be practical, as it would likely put me to sleep. And yes, it contains both chocolate and coffee (Sumatra and Kona), tastes a bit smoky, is smooth and luxurious in the mouth, and makes me long for a lonely, cold winter’s night in a far-off country, a fire crackling with just a hint of madness, and the full moon leering down at all of us, but particularly the dead genius that was Thomas James, whose poem “Wild Cherries,” from his one and only book Letters to a Stranger, ends:
“I watch you eat, tasting yourself perhaps,
Some bitterness that is a part of you,
And I accept it gratefully. When you smile,
I see you dying in that single instant.
Walking back home, into ourselves, we enter
A far-off country neither of us wanted.”
Oh, those things we want and don’t want. To feel. To write. To cook, to sing. To share. To love. To be alone. To be numb. To do nothing. To do everything…
Years ago, I worked in a library…
so little depends
in the Texas
Once again, my apologies to William Carlos Williams, whose poetry inspires and therefore often bears the brunt of my little diversions into whimsy. “Incongruities” first appeared here in October 2015. The original WCW poem can be found here.
For two years the oak
We had aged
together, but somehow
I survived the drought
and ice storms, the
regret and wilt,
the explosions within,
and it did not.
I do not know
the rituals of trees,
how they mourn
a passing, or if
the sighs I hear
betray only my own
frailties, but even
as I fuel the saw and
tighten the chain,
I look carefully
for new growth.
“Firewood” is included in my forthcoming chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, available for pre-publication order (shipping in October) at Finishing Line Press.
Welcome to “Sunday Compulsion,” in which creatives answer one question: Why do I create? Here’s poet Luanne Castle:
When I pondered why I write, my mind flipped the question to why I don’t write during so many fallow periods. There have been so many reasons over the years: school, work, social life, teaching, raising kids.
It’s not that I haven’t had plenty of active writing periods. I wrote poetry as a kid and, later, as a teen. I attended grad school for an MFA in poetry and fiction. When casual poetry workshops formed online, I joined them. When schools offered more formal online workshops, I attended some of those, too.
But I would write with passion for weeks or months or even years—and each writing period would be followed by a period where I wrote little, if anything. I didn’t have writer’s block. I don’t even know what that is. I’ve just lived my life and waited for writing to demand my time again.
Even now, I am always finding something that keeps me from writing. I spend time on my elderly mother’s needs. I foster (and adopt, too—it’s called foster failure in the shelter biz) homeless cats and volunteer at the local shelter. My husband and I travel for work and we travel for pleasure.
So the question that might help me answer Bob’s initial one is what brings me back to writing? It must be the pressure of not writing. The idea bin in my head and the idea list hidden under my daily to-do list both spill over. I realize I can no longer sort through my thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings begin to merge, to blend together. I get cranky. Really cranky.
And then I start to write again. At first it’s a little bit like throwing crap on the wall, but then my mind develops some clarity. I feel more in the moment and can process my emotions as separate events from my thoughts. I become less cranky, even a bit amiable, and when I’m tired, I turn off the computer screen and have a glass of wine, happy to put away a draft of a poem for tomorrow.
* * *
Listen to Luanne read “When Your Grandfather Shows You Photographs of His Mother,” a poem from her recent publication, Kin Types.
Read the poem here: When Your Grandfather Shows You Photographs of His Mother
* * *
Winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, Doll God, Luanne Castle’s first collection of poetry, was published by Aldrich Press. Luanne’s poetry and prose have appeared in Grist, Copper Nickel, River Teeth, Glass Poetry Press, Barnstorm Journal, Six Hens, Lunch Ticket, The Review Review, and many other journals. Kin Types, a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was published July 2017 by Finishing Line Press. Kin Types was a semi-finalist in the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest.
Luanne has been a Fellow at the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside. She studied English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside (Ph.D.); Western Michigan University (MFA); and the Stanford University writing certificate program. Her scholarly work has been published in academic journals, and she contributed to Twice-Told Children’s Tales: The Influence of Childhood Reading on Writers for Adults, edited by Betty Greenway. For fifteen years, she taught college English.
An avid blogger, Luanne can be found at luannecastle.com. She divides her time between California and Arizona, where she shares land with a herd of javelina.
Find Luanne at these sites:
Doll God may be found here: