Author: jwalsh (page 5 of 8)

Book news

I’m delighted to share that my collection How to Break My Neck will be published by ELJ Publications later this spring.  More news and links to follow!

Keep Emerging

Recently I went to Springfield to an awards luncheon at which I was recognized for my poem ‘The Library Again.” The poem was chosen by Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein for second place in the Gwendolyn Brooks Illinois Emerging Writers Contest.  And I got to read at the State Library!  How cool is that?  The link above takes you to the poem, which is based loosely on the final years of my maternal grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s.  (She made it to 96 years old, though, so that’s a good run!)  In her later years, my grandmother forgot so much, including her defenses.  So although Alzheimer’s is a brutal, awful disease, it also gave us a glimpse of a softer side of her that we never would have seen otherwise.

Thanks for taking the time to read!

Day 30: Reflections

So I made it.  I did a brand new poem each day for 30 days and I put it out there.  Creatively, this has been an incredibly rewarding undertaking.  I found inspiration where I thought there was none, and I rediscovered a real sense of discipline.  The first week was intimidating, but by day 8 or so, I was in the habit and looking forward to the task each day.  That’s not to say the poems were easy to write; some days were more grueling than others.  And sometimes I had to let poems be published before they were truly ready, just because I was out of time.  My experience was made all the greater by a sense of cause.  I knew that the money was going to a good press; that press, in turn, would bring more poetry to the world.

I believe that if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that poetry can only thrive if we see ourselves as members of a global collective.  We must have the desire to contribute and to support one another.  The success of one poet should not threaten another writer; rather, we should see all success as evidence of a fruitful shared land.  I read, I buy, I write, I publish, I donate.  Every element of this process, if I am doing my best, is rewarding to all members of the collective.  We must take care of one another.   Our differences should not divide us any more than the presence of both impressionists and post-modernists divides the Art Institute.

I am grateful to Tupelo Press, my fellow poets, those who contributed, and anyone who bothered to read when there is so terribly much to do.

Today’s poem is “Peopled.”

Day 29: Black dogs

I was speaking with my parents about their wonderful but odd dog, a rescued disabled black Guatemalan street dog.  It led me to remember how they had gone to the adoption center and their soon-to-be dog limped over on three legs and leaned against them.  The dog chose them, and she has been a gift in their lives.  I was also led to consider the difficulty pet centers sometimes have in adopting black dogs–which, perhaps not coincidentally, are a widely used euphemism for depression.  The first use of “black dog” to represent depression was Samuel Johnson, apparently. Now I know this, thanks to the OED.  I decided to play with the idea of what you choose to get versus what gets you in terms of depression.  There may be a delay in posting the poem, but it should appear, as always, at the link.  Here’s “Adoption.”

Day 28: Out of Order

One of the wonderful things about being a poet is that it gives you permission to follow any minor or major interest–everything is inspiring, really.  Recently I read (and then confirmed, because I am a dork) that Queen Elizabeth sent her first email in 1976.  That seemed so terribly early.  I got my first email account in 1995 or 6 and then used it mainly to encourage people to drink with me.  As I followed the story, I became curious about what she’d said.  Then I came across the statement that the palace declined to discuss its contents.  Makes it sound important, no?  But probably she did the equivalent of the first time we used cell phones and said, “Guess where I am?”  I’m still curious what she said, but the historical disruption in my head was cause for the poem.  1976…that’s just so early.  Here’s “On Learning the Queen Sent an Email in 1976.”  I suppose you don’t really need the story given the title, but there you go.


Day 27: Words and Pictures

Today I wrote about one of my favorite paintings, Holman Hunt’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil.   The story behind it is awful and lovely, a combination which I am drawn to as anyone who reads my work would readily attest.  I find her devotion gorgeous, but I share with others the sense of unease at the vigil she holds for her lover.  If it’s not up now, it will be soon–here’s “The Weapon of Memory.”

Day 26: Remains

In the home stretch of the 30/30 project, I started thinking about what I’m leaving behind from the month and what I wish I had been able to do better.  Mostly, it would have been nice if the rest of my life had been calm and accommodating–like maybe my job would give me the month off to write.  Alas, no such luck.  I’ve done what I could, and I hope to do some good work in the remaining days.  Once, a poet I greatly respect said that the effect of reading my work is kind of like walking into a place and saying “What happened here?”  I loved that.  It remains my favorite comment about my work–I do love examining destruction and failure, trying to piece together images to make a story.  Here’s “What Happened Here.”

Day 25: M’aidez

Today was our last shared prompt Thursday, which makes me quite sad, honestly.  I knew going in that the Tupelo 30/30 project was going to challenge me as a writer, but I didn’t anticipate finally feeling a sense of community with other writers.  I’m not an MFA, so I often find myself feeling isolated in the world of writers.  The folks with whom I’m writing have been insightful, encouraging, and hilarious.  We commiserate and vent when things aren’t going well, we share ideas and praise–it’s everything I think the world of writing should be when we’re able to remove the notion of the zero-sum game.  I still have a few more poems left in this project, but in the event any of you wonderful writers are reading this, I thank you all so much.

The prompt for today was telegram poems.  I wanted to capture what’s best about telegrams, which is also true for media like Twitter: economy of language.  Telegrams and poetry are close cousins.  (I might add, though, that there are apparently many poems out there praising telegraphy, and they’re wordy as hell.)  Yesterday I was out for a run and I saw a older couple out for a walk, one several feet behind the other.  Both smiled and greeted me, and they seemed perfectly content with the space between them.  They were happy together but not in the traditional couple-space.  I reflected on my own love and how I have come to understand the apart/together dynamic as an expression of confident, enduring love.  Here’s “Eliminating Small Words.”

Day 24: The Problem, Solved

I found a book in the halls today called Six Answers to the Problem of Taste.  It’s someone’s thesis, I’m guessing–printed in 1979, about 50 pages or so.  Essentially it’s a survey of philosophers trying to decide what is good art and what is not.  Philosophy is wonderful, but the arrogance of folks like Hume trying to come to some method of settling a question that is inherently without answer—it’s funny, honestly.  I find theory interesting but seldom do I find any single theoretical approach terribly useful.  I tried to play out my own poetry against the idea of a “problem of taste.”  Here’s “Six Answers to the Problem of Taste, Applied.”


Day 23: Not Very Good at Life

Once again, the kiddo provides the spark.  Yesterday she asked me why dodo birds weren’t alive anymore.  I said, “Well, hon, they just weren’t very good at being alive.”  Then I started thinking about whatever it was I meant when I said that.  The dodos truly had no defense and no idea that people would want to harm them.  It’s fearlessness to the point of idiocy.  That’s kind of how I feel sometimes; I don’t anticipate humanity’s awfulness, and then it’s so much harder to deal with than it would be for someone who expected the worst from the outset.  I realized this is my second poem on extinction this month, so analyze away.  Here’s “Extinction’s It Girl.”

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