poetry discussion lists

Poetics List: Our aim is to support, inform, and extend those directions in poetry that are committed to innovations, renovations, and investigations of form and/or/as content, to the questioning of received forms and styles, and to the creation of the otherwise unimagined, untried, unexpected, improbable, and impossible.

Wom-po: An international listserv devoted to the discussion of Women’s Poetry. Membership is open to all individuals who are interested in discussing poetry written by women. The discussion covers women poets of all periods, aesthetics, countries, and ethnicities.

NewPoetry List: Has two purposes: information and discussion related to contemporary poetry. We welcome publication announcements, reviews, essays, open letters, quotes, news items, calls for submissions, and, of course, poems and your commentary.


These are the three I know of and it’s quite surprising how long it took me to gain awareness of their existence, and then to actually sign up for them. I haven’t determined the exact List Serv Ratio of Noise to Substance for any yet, but so far so good, in all three cases.

Are there any other poetry lists out there that no-one’s told me about?

tongues of the ocean

My poem three provinces and their king is up at Tongues of the Ocean, the new interactive poetry journal edited by Scavella. I really like the format of this new journal — the first edition unveiled two new pieces every Sunday, in a combination of written and spoken word pieces. For the latter you actually have to listen without the text, which has been a revelatory and very enjoyable experience for me. I look forward to seeing where Tongues of the Ocean goes with its second issue. Check out the energy and dynamism in some of the excellent work on display there, and send in your submissions for the June edition!

Thanks and congrats, Scavella!

I allude, you allude, we allude

the mother of Pelops
to her husband

I stand close to you

my body ripe
and calling, scented
as apricot and lime
with musk

your throat muscles
stand up in ridges

I am the fresh water
you cannot reach
the cold scarlet fruit
you crave

I stand apart from you

may you live


An old piece dusted off.  I was workshopping regularly (and very deferentially) at the time I first wrote it, and remember getting a blistering workshop response. As I recall, my critic blasted me for presenting a piece relying on ‘obscure’ mythological allusions and declared in so many words that she didn’t give two hoots whose husband or wife did what to whom, or when, she wanted all the poetic evidence I was purportedly presenting to be, in fact, presented.

I think she was having a bad day, but wish I had thought at the time to link to my evidence. I mean, really.

woe is us

“.. what we need in poetry are more people who don’t have a stake in it, more people who don’t know the people, the real people behind the words to care about poetry enough to write about it. This is true in every other field, it seems, but us. This is a problem because there is hardly any “demand” for poetry beyond practicing poets.”

Victoria Chang making an excellent point. When was the last time you read a review of someone’s poetry by a practicing poet that said: I consider this work weak, for the following reasons…?

Either people (and that includes me) say stuff is great, or they say nothing. I’ve been on a recent roll of ordering and reading chapbooks and collections by poetry blogosphere poets. Some of it is really good stuff and I have been and will continue to write enthusiastically about it.

Some of it, though, makes me go WTF?! and wonder what the publishing world and standards in general are coming to. I could defend my WTF reactions meaningfully and respectfully in reviews, I think, but I’m choosing not to. Choosing not to even begin to go there.

For snivelingly cowardly reasons, mostly related to my self-interest as an aspiring poet myself.

Woe is me. And us. Where are we going to get the critical feedback we really need, if we’re all so busy scratching each other’s backs…?

Related post here.

print vs online

Interesting discussion of print versus online poetry journals, although I have to say that to me it sounds rather like someone discussing the merits of gramophone records over digital music. Probably because I came of poetry publication age in 2006 and have always and only ever submitted work via email, to online journals.

Electronic submissions are an important element weighing in favor of online journals for me. I believe some print journals do now accept online submissions, but it’s completely amazing to me that many print journals still actually want you to print out your poems on paper, write a cover letter on paper, and mail the lot in a paper envelope using an actual paper stamp! What about all those trees, people?

Beyond that, if I stop and think about it, having poems in a hard copy magazine would be nice-ish, I suppose. But huge areas of my whole life are pretty much paperless now. No paper bank or credit card statements. No paper tax returns. No paper invoices, all my bills are paid online. All my important records are scanned and stored in an easily searchable digital archive. I just got my Kindle 2 and am loving it. (The first commenter on the P&W article above correctly underlines the value of a durable, searchable online archive, versus having to dig through piles and piles of musty paper magazines – assuming you have the room to keep them all around to be searched in the first place.) I move around a lot and want my important stuff to be small, portable and/or easily/always accessible. Online poetry journals are a no-brainer for me.  And there are still dozens and dozens of excellent ones out there that I’d like to be published in and haven’t been, so….

More in response to Sandra Beasley’s P&W article from Edward Byrne and Scavella, here and here.

the complete poems of carl sandburg

have come to me twice in one week. Not sure how/when I ordered duplicate copies, but there they both are. Both lovely old musty hardback library copies from online used bookstores. If you want one, let me know. Sandburg is great for spot-on word choice and totally understandable linebreaks, even if he channels W. Whitman occasionally.

In the Voice of a Minor Saint

Full disclosure: I’m already a huge fan of Sarah J. Sloat’s work and I’m afraid In the Voice of a Minor Saint, her new chapbook from Tilt Press, has only confirmed every one of my existing prejudices. There’s an elegant luminosity about her poems. I think of fine lace and bone china when I read them. Lace and china run through with near-invisible threads of toughness and durability. I also think witty, delightful, quirky, intelligent. Dainty. Fastidious, too, in the best sense of the word. A successful poet must either be a master story-teller or consistently delight the reader by asserting bold unexpected connections with complete confidence. Sarah falls into the latter category, and reading In the Voice of a Minor Saint is an all-too-short poetry-rush of page by page anticipation – what will she come up with next?

The poem Pursuit, for example, starts out addressing the morning -“Bird-wrought dawn, bed’s edge” – and leads us along a bright chain of morning-things that could only show up in a Sarah Sloat poem (“narco smell of gasoline/ at the Esso”!), to end with this unexpected but wholly perfect affirmation:

Oh dumpy man whistling like happiness itself
Past my car window –
Keep it up, buddy
I follow.

Self-awareness and self-deprecating humor are taken to new heights in The Silent Treatment, a brilliant analysis of the (non-) activity of the tongue in such a phase:

Eat your heart out, it might say. Eat
your pilaf, your side vegetable
and the pox upon your crops.
It might say anything, were it not
lounging around a lower hemisphere.
Laid back at some southern spa, mud-
bathing, overdosing on motionlessness.

Similarly, in High Heeled – another gorgeously funny sketch which I won’t excerpt here. Go buy the book and read it!

The world in these poems is often an endearing, manageable place – “Little world, your afternoons/ are losing their edge” (Humidity) – but it has its edges and the emotional connections to it are real, whether painful — “It’s always the same. Everything so/beautiful and falling apart. Everything/too mulish to collapse entirely” (The Problem with Everything) – or joyful: “I dream joy’s a cheetah on a highway. / I pull off, ditch my keys and run with it” (Ghazal of the Bright Body).

The last poem in the book, Vestment, is also available here. It’s a complete gem, and not just because it has bees in it.

Check it out and congrats to Sarah!

Midnight Voices

A wide range of themes and settings in Deborah Ager’s finely-observed poetry collection, Midnight Voices from Cherry Grove Collections. Introspection tinged with melancholy, the decay of a stale relationship, credibly- and multiply-rendered spirit of place, shocking acts of domestic violence, the tragedy of miscarriage or stillbirth, kinetic childhood memories, the fanciful laments of shower water and a telephone, and more. Deborah’s poems have a signature lyricism, a discernment, and a precision in description that makes you want more. My personal favorite is The Hours, a captivatingly witty and lyrical meditation on dying that combines a modern hospital setting with the ancient symbolism of Charon’s coins, so we go from an opening line of “O, there will be water wrinkled/ In a plastic cup, there will be night” to: “On my tongue, the coins will be heavy,/ the coins will be sweet. O lord, // I will say. “ Many other poems also stood out for me – for example, Magnolia, a dynamic and disturbing account of domestic violence that begins: “He chased her with a knife . There were the whites of his eyes. There was the door slamming behind/her”; and Love Poem, a moving account of a miscarriage: “Used every towel twice,/ woke up to more, the warmth of it, / the dread of it, moving down my calf.”

Check it out and congrats to Deborah!