Monthly Archives: January 2013

January haiku by Frank Higgins

past the gorging gulls,
a few more baby turtles
hurry to the sea

Frank Higgins has had productions of his plays across the country.   He is the author of two books of poetry, and two books of haiku.  He lives in Kansas City, Mo.

Write A Modern Ode

Thanks to Erin Adair-Hodges for today’s poetry prompt inspiration:

Today’s prompt is to write an ode. Not a classical or even English ode, which follow particular formats, but rather, just write a poem in praise of something. Except, since we’re post-post-post, not really. Write an ode to something not usually praised or for which you have, at best, mixed feelings. Here is a great example, Kevin Young’s “Ode to the Midwest.”

This exercise is inspired by my trip to the dentist today. There were kitten posters on the ceiling.

January Photographs by Mary Dudley

January looms large-
a huge floe on the sea
of the early year.
Thick, translucent ice
under which the crocus sleep.

January mornings dawn
as a pink blush in a crystalline sky.
The sun warms as hours pass
but noon still glares, brilliantly cold.

January’s dusk descends early
and its sun burns orange and red
setting behind the bare-branched tangle
of the back-yard trees.

January’s cold thickens
as the world darkens:
It seeps under the door frame,
pushes us into the circle of
the warmest room,
hangs over the haven of our bed
like a cold fog
that morning won’t burn off.

January looms large—
a month to reckon with.

Mary Dudley has written poems since childhood. She studied poetry before moving to NM in 1968, and changing her professional focus to family and child development. She’s published two chapbooks and her work has been included in the Rag, the NM Center for Peace & Justice Newsletter and calendar, la LloronaSin Fronteras , and 200 NM Poems.

Questions Poetry Prompt

Thanks to Rebecca Aronson for today’s awesome prompt:

Today’s prompt: a question poem.

For this poem, write only questions. Let each question lead your mind to the next question–these can be as loosely or closely associative as you feel like. The questions need not be answerable, but they should feel to you like real questions. I suggest at least ten questions on the list.

(once you have a list of at least ten questions, you might find that the list is a kind of poem itself, or you might decide to choose one or more of the questions, or their possible answers to write from.)

Have fun!

The Problem with the Perfect Space

The characteristics of a perfect creative space are as varied and subjective as the myriad individuals who utilize them. What makes an ideal space for one may be abhorrent for another. One writer, for example, may prefer the solitude of a quiet room with a closed door while another prefers the white noise and human bustle typical of the neighborhood café. One painter may prefer En plein air while another longs for the consistency of the indoor studio. Too, such preferences alter in response to related personal needs and emotional states.  Perhaps yesterday the objective was to get out of the house and away from the dirty dishes, making the coffee shop, where the dishes are someone else’s concern, more conducive to working. Tomorrow the concern may be reducing caffeine intake and limiting sugary snacks, making the library a more attractive choice. Artists intuit this about themselves and constantly adjust to get their creative work done.

Artists also know that physicality of space is important to the creative process. The painter/sculptor must be able to make a mess; the musician must make noise without raising the ire of neighbors; the photographer must have space to store and use specialty equipment; and the writer must have something hard on which to write or a place to set the computer upon which she types. In developing one’s place of creativity, it may be useful to know that quiet is generally considered more conducive to creating than noise, that large spaces dissipate energy and small spaces channel it, that distractions can prove homicidal to focus. But more importantly is intention to create.

One of the ways artists undermine their intentions to create is to focus on acquiring a perfect creative space – even waiting to create until everything about a space is perfect. Manuscripts are postponed until the perfect house on the perfect lane with the perfect view are purchased, occupied and decorated. Musical arrangements delayed until the ideal music studio secured. Great paintings left imaginary until just the right cooperative opens up. Then, once the perfect space is acquired, the artist becomes paralyzed by that very perfection. The writer is so stunned by the view beyond the windows of their dream writing space they never write a word. The painter becomes afraid to make a mess in their newly built studio with its hardwood floors. The sculptor becomes distracted by loft-mates and other artists in the cooperative she joined. The perfect space, then, is just another way perfectionism can thwart an artist’s efforts.

The intention to create, then, is at least as important as one’s creative space.  Is it really the thought of those dirty dishes that interferes with creating, or is it fear of facing the blank page, empty canvas or block of stone? Is it fear of success? Or is the thought of those dirty dishes a distraction meant to delay the creative process and temporarily keep the ego comfortable? Will the perfect creative space really make you better at creating, or will the act of creating make you better at creating?

Take into consideration other professions in which lack of distractions is crucial to success. You would not want your dentist to be distracted by a stunning view while performing your root canal. Give the same level of focus to your creative work by providing your creative process with as much consideration as a surgeon gives the patient beneath his scalpel.

Song for Aishan by Wayne Lee

Red candles, red roses around you now—
scatter of petals across the floor, on your coat
like paw prints against the snow, curl
of birch bark, bed of fox fur under your head.

Aishan, Kirgi for Moon Heart, grandson
of the wind and moon—we sing your crossing
on a renegade gust.

Shanadii—shaman granddaughter of Geronimo—
named you stonecarrier of her Earth circle,
gifted the stone in a medicine pouch,
placed it on your chest as you lay in repose.

Today in this circle of stone, this cycle of wind
and moon, we sing Ohila—Apache crossing song—
sing it to the six directions.

You crouched at the edge, waited for your two-legged
to let you go, so you could cross
from her arms, a Bodhisattva in wolf body—
carried on the wind, gray legs twitching as in dreamtime.


Wayne Lee ( is an educator/journalist living in Santa Fe, NM. Lee’s poems have appeared in Tupelo Press, The New Guard, Sliver of Stone, Slipstream, and other publications.

Interview with Maryfrances Wagner

Maryfrances PhotoI post today’s long-in-coming interview with great pleasure.

Maryfrances Wagner is exceptionally active in the Kansas City poetry community and contributes countless hours and energy supporting, directing, and generally overseeing innumerable activities and events at The Writers Place. I know her to be a dedicated, passionate individual and have had the genuine pleasure of working with her on a few projects. She is as serious about fundraising as she is about teaching and writing, has a  witty sense of humor and, being a woman after my own heart, enjoys a glass of wine after a job well done. Please enjoy today’s featured interview following  a selection of Wagner’s poetry from  her collection Light Subtracts Itself:

On The Wheel

See, she hissed when he broke
his nose. Feel the tongue’s lie?
When the iron singed an arm,
she nodded. God punishes.

At the ocean, we don’t think
about the absence of ocean,
the deep hold of darkness
swallowing us over and over.

Here’ the broken toe from sneaking
out the window, the severed tendon,
the chipped tooth, debt picking up
interest. For every lost promise,

every tingle and rush, every night
of slipping further out, of looking
back, waiting for the ghost to pass
through the wall, the wheel turns.

– – –

What are the origins for the poems in your “Red Silk” collection?

Most of my poetry comes from what I experience and what I observe.  Red Silk is divided into sections.  One section involves teaching and students.  I taught composition and creative writing for many years.  Another section, and where the title of the book comes from, is about the experience of being married to a Viet Nam vet.  Poets have written many poems about war, but these poems try to address what happens after the vet comes back home and has to adjust to life after war.  The poems try to show the effect war can have on loved ones and relationships, especially in a war that had so many casualties and didn’t honor its soldiers when they came back.  My ex-husband, Gale, received three medals, including the Silver Star, and they were mailed to him without a ceremony.  He came back wounded and spent three years on and off at Fitzsimmons military hospital in Denver. Gale returned from war a changed man that had years of emotional and physical stress.

After you published your first book of poetry, did you ever doubt that you would complete and publish a second?

Well, I think most writers would say that they have already written quite a few new poems before their book gets published.  It usually takes at least a year before an accepted book gets published.  My book Salvatore’s Daughter took almost three years.  By that time, I had enough material for another book.  My first two books, now out of print, were actually chap books during the early stages of writing.  Salvatore’s Daughter was my first full poetry book, followed by Red Silk, and Light Subtracts Itself.

Describe your process for ordering poems in a collection.

The process varies.  I’ve actually done the ordering of poems for both of my husband’s books as well as a few other writers.  I read all of the poems through, and then I read them again and start to sort them into piles that seem to flow together.  The third time through, I arrange what I think serves as a logical or chronological order.  Sometimes this might be what seems a chronological flow if most of the poems are narratives, or it could involve a logical order of ideas as they unfold.  A book, to me, should unfold throughout. Sometimes I group poems into sections that seem to fit together and carry similar themes or subject matter.  To me a book needs to come together in some way, not just be a collection of random poems.  At the beginning of the book, I tend to put one or two poems that carry a theme, symbol, or idea that represents much if not all of what the book adds up to say.  At the end, I try to put poems that finish or close the book.  At the same time, I think the book ought to open with a strong poem that engages the reader and makes him want to read on and a closing poem that leaves an impression that lingers.

Can you talk bit more about your experience working with Robert Bly?

I think every writer ought to have a great experience and connection with a significant writer.  It can be so energizing.  At least, that was the experience I had with Robert Bly.  He was probably the most dynamic and engaging person I’ve ever met.  I took at class with him over the summer, and we met for five or six hours every day, sometimes longer.  Every day was a new surprise whether we were walking along a beach or pounding away at the difficulties of translating a poem.  I don’t think I could do justice to how amazing the experience was or include all of the experiences we had.  As a Jungian scholar, Bly had us recording our dreams every night with the instructions that we were to record them only, not read them afterward, and he had us doing writing exercises that elicited the subconscious.  He also put on persona masks and recited poems in the voice of different people—like the politician, the philosopher, or the executive.  He was always trying to shut off that logical, thinking brain to get us to the “third brain.” From the beginning he told us that he was not going to workshop our poems or help us edit them.  He said, “I’m going to teach you how to work, how to create material for a book.  When you leave here, you should have enough material to produce a book.”  We wrote three rough drafted pieces each day, and he always wrote with us, so he was creating his own manuscript of work.  Two of the three poems we wrote each day he stimulated with assorted exercises, and the third we wrote at night on our own.  Each of us did have enough material to develop a book by the time we left.  He told us if we were stuck or needed more input, then we should go back and read from our recorded dreams.

He also invited a number of poets to visit our class and discuss something concerning the craft of poetry.  One day he had a drummer come, and we listened to beat for hours.  He had us translate and then share the translation.  There were such differences in translations that we learned how hard it is to choose the right words and what part of the poem (the sound, the rhythm, the words, etc.) we were willing to sacrifice because it’s not possible to get everything the poet has done in his own language into English.  We could really see it when eight people had eight entirely different translations.

We had lunch and dinner together, and all of his class sessions were engrossing.  Most of the time we spent outside instead of in a classroom.  One day we were walking along the beach, and he asked a fisherman if he could borrow one of the flounder he had caught, and the fisherman agreed.  He threw it on the sand, where it started flopping.  We all watched it die.  Then we had to engage all of our senses in describing the fish and our experience in watching it die.  It was powerful for us because he then had us comparing it to specific things that he named.

He has over a thousand poems of other people memorized, and he often asked us if we knew this poem or that poem, and he would recite them for us, always saying first, “Let me give it to you.”  He recommended we memorize poems we loved and “give them” to people when we’re standing in grocery lines or waiting at the theatre.  I think people would have a hard time getting the level of involvement Bly gave his students.  He had a wonderful sense of humor, and if he thought we were taking him too seriously, he said, “Don’t write that down.  How do you know that I know what I’m talking about?”  Sometimes I felt like I was with a psychologist, a philosopher, or a poet.  We never knew what to expect, but it was always a surprise. It was almost magical.

After I went back home to Missouri, I did start working on the poems, and they formed the book Salvatore’s Daughter.  The day that I received my published copies, I sent one to Robert Bly, and about a week later, he sent me a copy of his new book that came out on the same day.  His book had many of the poems we started in his class.

What projects are you working on now?

I am always working on the next poem, the next book of poems.  I have about half of the poems finished for the next book.  I’m always working on about a half dozen at a time at different levels of completion.  I’m also arranging the poems of my husband’s new book and helping him edit those poems.

I am one of the co-editors of the I-70 Review, a literary magazine of poetry and short fiction, so that keeps me fairly busy too.  We accept submissions from July 1 to Jan 31, so for anyone interested in submitting, he or she can visit our website at or friend us on Facebook.

I continue to work as a board member and volunteer at the Writers Place.  I am the chair of the programming committee, and our goal is to help writers get the opportunity to read their work, whether at The Writers Place or at the Neon Gallery.  A couple of years ago, we formed a partnership with Tom Cobian of the Neon Gallery, and four times a year, we have a collaboration of the arts.  We call the event Music+Poetry+Art.  Tom is a Neon artist and displays his work as well as the work of others, I supply the poets, and Martha Gershun and Rick Malsick supply the musicians.  I’m also always helping with fundrasiers and grant proposals at The Writers Place.

I am in a writing group, and it helps keep me focused on writing new material.  Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in endless revision.  I also mentor writers, give readings, writing workshops, and do assorted freelance writing projects that are interesting.  Lately, I’ve been collecting ideas and writing fragments of material for a possible memoir about teaching.  I have had so many students with interesting stories, and I wanted to capture them in writing.  I first tried doing it with poetry, but it isn’t quite working out because each story requires too much background.  So, it may end up a mixture of poems and memoir.  I never really run out of ideas, only time to do them.

– – –

Maryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter (BkMk) Red Silk (MidAm) and Light Subtracts Itself. (MidAm).  Red Silk won the Thorpe Menn Book Award in 2000.  Her poems have appeared in literary magazines including New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Beacon Review, anthologies and textbooks including Unsettling America:  An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books) and The Dream Book, An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation).  Work from that book was chosen for American Audio Prose and was translated into Italian for Trapani Nuovo in Italy.  She is a co-editor of the I-70 Review. 


Inception by Joanne Bodin

It’s a tiny drop of dew on a blade of grass after a rainstorm
that won’t let you shift your focus until it burrows into your subconscious
with tangled images that call out to you
then it disappears for awhile
but you know it’s still there,  the melancholy thoughts
still disjointed pulling at you to give them life
to tell their story untill they weigh you down with abandon
you try to convince yourself that it’s not your story
but then the tidal wave, no longer a tiny drop of dew
envelopes your subconscious and debris of human suffering wash along
the shore of your mind and interrupt your every day routine
then it disappears for awhile
until you are sitting at the Sixth Street Cafe with your writing pad, pen
cup of Moroccan dark roast coffee
the sound of rain pellets on the picture window
in the corner of your wooden booth
the drone of a train whistle tunnels into your subconscious
and synapses begin firing away
a train roars by
rain mixed with snow blurs your vision and you look out of the window
see the ghostly shadow of the red caboose as it disappears into the mist
suddenly the fog lifts
you see distant sun drenched fields of poppies and columbine
the entire story now unfolds and you know everyone so well
their stature, their favorite foods, their deepest secrets
and your hand begins to write- you dribble words onto
paper like creamy butterscotch candy in metaphors of longing
of pain and  euphoria that dance with you in a
tango of sentences and the floodgates open
you stay with them until the finish, not to win the race
but to honor their presence, and the heaviness lifts
your muse gives you a creative wink
and runs off to romp in her fields of glory.

Joanne Bodin is a retired teacher of the gifted in New Mexico. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum Instruction and Multi-Cultural Teacher Education. Her latest novel, ORCHID OF THE NIGHT is a dark psychological thriller about a man running from his troubled past who finds solace in the gay community of Ixtlan. It WON the 2017 New York City Big Book Award as “distinguished favorite” in GBLT fiction. It also WON the 2017 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award in GBLT fiction and placed as “favorite” in three other categories.
Visit her website at for updates