Monthly Archives: April 2013

“A Hard Lesson from Hirsch” by Cathryn Cofell

What did I know then
of the tenderness of poetry?
Head full of chlorine
and dripping boys in Speedos.
High school was elegy,
fashion and fractions,
spandex and goggles,
ass in the air on a starting block,
a coach who passed me in algebra
so I could rip 50 meters of watery space
in less time than it took to read Frost.
What did I know then
of the cogent of desire?
That coach should have flunked me,
left me to sulk in the library
where Eddie and I could be discovered,
flailing in the stacks.
Now, instead, I suffer the ghost,
Eddie’s rhythm a rock from a slingshot,
me a wild hare poised.
“You are a foreigner to yourself,”
he writes in chalk around me
and the young girls giggle,
this old girl too young.

Cathryn Cofell-Appleton, publishes poems, essays and emails to bad teachers.  She has her name on six chapbooks, a CD and a forthcoming collection, but no restraining orders.  Yet.

Read her poem “Fertility Specialsit.”

“Be Still” by Ronda Miller

It is here, among the dust, discarded
books, some read, many not, plots
remembered, most forgotten.

It is here, behind the
wall, encased through time,
held by a mind visibly gone
astray with vision blank to
the present, not to his presence.

It is here, susurration into the
night, Russian accent,
speech thick, participles
dangle heavy in air,
suspended vibrations of laughter,
tears, love, arguments,
apologies, hellos, goodbyes.

It is here, among the rafters,
rattles her breastbone,
light, musical, harsh, scolding.

“Hear me still!” he demands.

“Here, be still,” she replies,
pats the warm space next to
herself, drifts asleep to his voice
as it whispers in her ear;
her voice urgent in response.

Ronda Miller, a Life Coach whose clients have lost someone to suicide or homocide, has poetry at The Smithsonian Art Institite, transformed as art, online, in ‘BEGIN AGAIN: 150 Kansas Poems’, ‘To The Stars Through Difficulties’, ‘Going Home: Poems from My Life’, and in documentary ‘The 150th Reride of The Pony Express’. She is a Kansas girl.

Interview with poet Devreaux Baker

DevreauxIt is with genuine honor and pleasure that I introduce today’s featured poet, Devreaux Baker. Devreaux’s poetry came into my life when she submitted a poem for the “200 New Mexico Poems” project last year. Her poem “Red Willow People” is number 93 in the collection and was posted on June 8, 2012. In addition, it will be included in the upcoming print anthology.

Not long after posting her poem, I received a copy of Devreaux’s 2011 collection of poetry of the title. It didn’t take long for me to appreciate and understand why it was selected for the 2011 PEN Oakland Award.  Please enjoy today’s interview with Deveraux immediately following her poem.
Recipe for Lorca’s Chocolate Cake 

I worked all night on a chocolate cake for Lorca,
filled with light that does not know what it wants,

created from chocolate so dark it sears hearts
and fills minds with dreams of moon and water.

I used cocoa so pure it causes policemen to weep.
I filled the layers with white linen afternoons,

a hint of ginger and essence of rose creating a dancestep
that wakes your spirit to enter the souls of your feet as a whisper

and fill your body with duende, passion of the first kiss,
becoming a river of fire that ignites your thighs,

and sets loose love reflected in all the eyes of men,
women, children and dogs,

so that one bite of chocolate will rest in your belly
like the tender edge of dawn,

lifting your voice out of the dark rooms of earth
where you sleep, rising up like wind or stars

to encircle my body once again
with your words.


How long have you been writing poetry and what set you in motion?I have been writing poetry my entire life. Some of my earliest memories are of writing poems as a child and making small books of poetry. I was raised in a home where story telling was a huge part of our family tradition and poems were freely recited to us by our grandmother. I remember taking long car trips with my family and being entertained by many poetry recitations from my grandmother. I also remember being shown hand bound notebooks that had been passed down from ancestors that were filled with stories and poems and this made a huge impression on me as to the importance of poetry as well as stories within a family.—

DBaker_Red_Willow_Front (2)Tell me about the inspiration behind your collection of poetry, “Red Willow People.”

When I received the HeleneWurlitzer Writing Fellowship I thought I would concentrate on editing an existing manuscript which I took with me to Taos.  It became clear after I had been in residence for the first week that I was there to write a book of poems which reflected the inspiration of the land and the many diverse people who live there.  I did not have a car while in residence which was a huge benefit as I walked everywhere and had an opportunity to more directly engage with the environment. Early on I had the good fortune to meet Jocelyn Martinez who is an incredibly talented artist from the Taos Pueblo. I shared some poetry with her and she offered to supply the cover illustration for the book. My connection with Jocelyn was a huge impetus for bringing the book to completion. A year later I was awarded a PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award for that book.
What, in your opinion,  is the most difficult aspect of getting a book published?I feel very lucky in finding a publisher who believes in my work and is so supportive of my vision. I think one of the hardest things about getting published is not becoming discouraged by rejection. It is so competitive and hard to get anything published these days that I think if a writer finds a small independent press that is a right match for them, they should consider themselves fortunate.

What other creative activities do you purusue?

Some other creative outlets include performance art, radio work, and of course anything to do with being out in nature. For several years I produced a radio program of original student writing for public radio titled The Voyagers Show. Working with students of all ages to produce that show was some of the most gratifying work I have done.  I also enjoy performing poetry readings which incorporate music and have recently staged shows which use live music and masks. I will be returning to Taos      in September for a second Wurlitzer fellowship and am looking forward to producing a new book and a multi media show with several other artists (as yet unknown) from New Mexico. I love the idea of collaborating on a piece that incorporates visual art with the spoken word.
Devreaux Baker is a Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the 2011 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry Prize for her book, Red Willow People. She is the recipient of the 2012 Hawaii Council of Humanities International Poetry Prize, and the Women’s Global Leadership Initiative Poetry Award. Her poetry fellowships include a MacDowell Fellowship, the Hawthornden Castle International Fellowship, three California Arts Council Awards and two Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowships. She has published three books of poetry; Red Willow People, Beyond the Circumstance of Sight, and Light at the Edge and conducted poetry workshops in France and Mexico. She has taught poetry in the schools with the CPITS Program and produced the Voyagers Radio Program of original student writing for KZYX Public Radio.

“Fleeting Life” by Lola Eagle

Our days are bounded by our dream as night is bounded by the stars;
Our world expands or shrinks in size as it is seen through hopeful eyes.

Each hour of Life begins and ends in minutes that so soon are gone;
To capture one and hold it fast is but a whim and cannot last.

The golden minutes we would keep are fleeting just as all the rest;
The mournful minutes stretch and grow; yet sixty seconds each they hold.

When nighttime flees we come awake to find another chance awaits;
The morning brings us hours to use; how they are filled is ours to choose.

With hopeful hearts our days evolve from black of night to bloom of day;
And whether such is gold or bleak depends on how we act and speak.

Thus, form your day howe’er you will, for what we do reflects our soul;
Giving to others what we seek returns to us a Life unique.

Lola R. Eagle is a free-lance writer, author and poet living in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Her work has been published in national magazines, anthologies, and on-line sites, as well as her own books — From the Eye of an Eagle and More Visions in Verse.”

“Thoughts While Reading Kierkegaard (The Cupboard, 1841)” by Katherine DeBlassie

His coat hangs, Regine,
like a cassock and hides his wooden leg.
The clock sounds; the sign of his father
he carries on his back—

He loved the cupboard. Wanted your
body inside it more than you did.
Acknowledge the things inside it (agony, pseudonyms . . .)
but have the opposite in mind.

He quakes underneath his umbrella,
pushing against the tic-toc, the daily
calendar, the other darker days.
The little hand goes up the body.

The big great big hand is paralyzed.
He is the earth, you give him a glance, a nod,
at Vespers on Easter Sunday,
and he is struck by losing you (by looking at you),

weighted by the gravity that pulls him to a higher order—
sun, moon, planets, palisander box with no shelves;
precursor to a casket. Vellum manuscript: one for him and
one for you. Let him turn you into something else—

Katherine DeBlassie’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming in B O D Y, Inch, Zone 3, Tidal Basin, Court Green, Boxcar Poetry Review, Verse Daily and Cutthroat among others. She earned her MFA from the University of Maryland. She received an honorable mention for the 2011 Rita Dove Poetry Prize, was a finalist for the 2009 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and received Work-Study Scholarships for the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.


Interview with Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Merriam-Goldberg

CarynCaryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-2013 Kansas poet laureate, which has not been an easy feat when one realized the Kansas Arts Commission was eliminated in mid-2011. Despite lack of the state’s support as epitomized by this gesture, Caryn has  managed to successfully put together two different anthologies, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, which celebrates Kansas’ Sesquicentennial,  and the subsequent To the Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices, both of which began as daily blog postings. Caryn is the third Kansas Poet Laureate and continues to serve as the state continues its search for the next its next distinguished poet to serve in this office.

Please enjoy today’s interview which immediately follows the poem by Caryn:



Did you think your life was straight as this road,
something that could be time-lapsed into a predictable gait?
Did you ever try to map lightning, predict when
the thunderhead would pause and fold in on itself?
Have you pointed to a place in the clouds and said,
“there” just before a ghost cloud twisted briefly into form?
It is all nothing, then supercell, multiple stikes through
the clouds while the tips of the grass shimmer awake.
From the deep blue that narrates your life
comes the pouring upward of white curves and blossoms.
From the dark, comes the thunder. Then the violet flash.
From the panorama of what you think you know
comes the collapse of sky, falling on you right now
whether you’re watching the weather or not.
The world dissolves, reforms. What comes surprises,
motion moving all directions simultaneously, like the
losses you carry, talismans strung through your days, singing
of those you’ve loved deep as the blue framing the storm.
It rains for a moment in the field, in your heart,
then the weather stretches open its hand of life and says,
here, this whole sky is for giving.

 begin againTell me how you felt the moment you learned you were chosen to serve as the third Poet Laureate of Kansas.

I was thrilled and honored. After working for so many years as an activist poet, helping others find their voices and use those    voices to effect change and bring great meaning and healing to their lives, I had spent a lot of my work life lifting up other writers (which I still feel is a sacred calling). But to be recognized for my work in the community and also for my poetry was one of the greatest honors in my life.

Have you worked with previous Kansas Poet Laureates?

Yes, I worked very closely with the previous poet laureate, Denise Low, and also with Jonathan Holden, our first poet laureate. I also have worked and am still collaborating with poets laureate of other states, especially since I organized a national convergence of poets laureates that brought 20 poets laureate to Kansas for two days of readings, workshops and visiting. I’m about to go to New Hampshire for another such gathering, this one focused on poetry and politics, and I’m looking forward to more generative projects coming out of my time with other state poets laureate.

You mention on your website that when you were very young,  you told your Grandfather that you were going to live in Kansas someday. Can you recall your early impressions of Kansas before you ctually visited? What did Kansas represent to you or how did you imagine it?

All I really knew about Kansas was from the Wizard of Oz movie. When I first got on a plane to go to Missouri — I lived in Columbia, MO and then Kansas City, MO for a total of 4.5 years before I moved to Kansas — I didn’t really know where the Midwest was even, and certainly didn’t know anything about Kansas.

There is often a deep connection to place for Kansas poets. Can you tell me a little bit more about the relationships you are building with“the particulars” of Kansas?

renga-cover-rough-darkI think many poets many places have deep connections to the earth and sky where they live because what better way to get    inspiration? With Kansas, the beauty of this place is far more subtle than in Colorado, where the Rockies blow your mind, or the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota, which dazzles just about anyone. Here, the main attraction is as much the sky as the land because the weather is astonishing, big-hearted, subject to rapid change, vivid and dramatic, and always happening. I also love the land here — the tallgrass prairies of eastern Kansas (where I live) where the grasses turn red each fall and need to be burned each spring; the Flint Hills and further west, Smoky Hills; the rock formations way out west and wide valleys throughout the state. Kansas is very varied, and the more I live here, the more I see the variety and also the patterns of who migrates through and what tilts each season.

How do poetry, teaching, and community interconnect for you?

All three are woven together so tightly that it’s hard for me to see the separate strands at time. I write, and because I write, I have a writer’s point-of-view when I teach: I can help students revise and strengthen their work, find overall patterns, clear away what keeps them from hearing the calling of the piece of writing. Because I also do a lot of community facilitation –workshops, meetings, etc. — I’m often hearing, in one ear, what my writing and teaching has to do with making community and making positive change in the world while, in the other ear, I’m in tune with what the words we write want to say and how we can best help them.

What role does revision play in writing and how do you approach revising your own work?

Sometimes revision is everything and sometimes not. This is to say that I have revised some writing for years. My novel, THE    DIVORCE GIRL, about to be published is something I started in 1997 after writing it in my head for decades. I spent over a decade simply revising it to the point that I feel like I have sections of it memorized at this point. I have books of poetry I’ve worked on for over a decade, revising some poems dozens of times. I also have things I write and just put out — like most of my blog posts and    some poems — that just come, and that’s that. But I think they tend to “just come” because I’ve written like a maniac since I was about 14, so those trails in my mind lead easily to writing on the page.

You are involved in numerous wonderful projects. Tell me how you maintain balance and protect your writing time while also keeping up with these projects? How do you prioritize?

FrontCoverWebPromosI struggle with this at times, and at times, I feel the    balance. It’s an ongoing practice Today, for example, I had a    meeting with the program director of the Individualized MA program    (in which I teach) about ways to help starting graduate students,    then had lunch with the former poet laureate, Denise Low, to catch    up on writing projects an talk over a contract I was offered on my    book on the Holocaust — NEEDLE IN THE BONE: HOW A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR AND POLISH RESISTANCE FIGHTER BEAT THE ODDS AND FOUND EACH OTHER. I’m answering emails now, then finishing a letter to a Goddard student, then working on a book proposal for another book before going to teach a writing and yoga workshop. That’s today, and tomorrow will be very different – I’m meeting Kelley Hunt to write some songs, and working on some poetry or fiction (depending on my inclination at the time). I try to do something physical for an hour each day: yoga, walking, going to the gym. I’ve also been sleeping outside on a futon bed on our screened-in porch lately, which is only possible with ease during a handful of days each year (when it’s not too hot or too cold), and being outside helps me most of all to keep balance. I also talk with my husband daily, sharing all kinds of moments from our lives, and I see my friends and kids and other family a lot. It all helps. How I prioritize is to balance the work I need to do (workshops, work with my students, etc.) that’s bound to deadlines with the work I need to do for my soul (my own writing), making room for both. If I feel off kilter, I’ll switch things up a bit.

What’s next?

The Kansas Poet Laureate program is now part of the Kansas Humanities Council, which will be announcing a new poet laureate later this month.

I’m also working on two writing projects which will probably take me over the next year or two: revising a novel on the story of Miriam, from the bible, but set in the U.S. from the 1960s to the present; and writing poetry to go with photos from Stephen Locke, a weather chaser and brilliant photographer ( for a book on storms and wild weather that we’re pitching through my agent to various publishers.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the Poet Laureate of Kansas, and the author of 16 books, including four collections of poetry, most recently Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems (editor, Woodley Press); Landed; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community & Coming Home to the Body (Ice Cube Books); a forthcoming novel, The Divorce Girl (Ice Cube Books); a non-fiction book, Needle in the Bone: How a Holocaust Survivor and Polish Resistance Fighter Beat the Odds and Found Each Other (Potomac Books); a beloved writing guide, Write Where You Are (Free Spirit Press); and several anthologies. She co-edited An Endless Skyway: Poetry of the State Poets Laureate (Ice Cube Books) with Marilyn L. Taylor, Denise Low and Walter Bargen. Founder of Transformative Language Arts – a master’s program in social and personal transformation through the written, spoken and sung word – at Goddard College where she teaches, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-writes songs, offers collaborative performances, and leads writing and singing Brave Voice retreats. She writes columns and serves as poet-in-residence for Here daily blog posts, “Everyday Magic,” plus occasional podcasts and writing exercises are at, and her websites are and