A Feathered Metaphor

I have a short essay on birds and poetry craft up at Tahoma Literary Review. TLR published my poem “The Chicken Poem” in their summer print issue; it should be available online at the TLR site shortly.


I had a blast writing the essay and hadn’t realized how much I actually know about birds.

P.S. I like birds just fine. It’s just envy speaking.

Article from The Onion

Oh writers & readers, how true this rings:

Author Promoting Book Gives It Her All Whether It’s Just 3 People Or A Crowd Of 9 People

“Shortly before her reading Tuesday at local bookstore Word Mentality, author Francine Massey told reporters that she does her absolute best for everyone who comes out to see her, whether it’s just three people or a much larger crowd of nine people…” Read more


That hits a little close to home. Of course, we can change this. YOU can change this. Go to a reading, support other writers, buy books when you can, send fan notes!

A Review, a Poem, a Couple of Fan Notes

Frost in the Low Areas got a nice mention over at Literary Mama in the “Now Reading: July 2015” column:

Literary Reflections Editor Libby Maxey shares, “I’ve recently finished Karen Skolfield’s Frost in the Low Areas, an award-winning collection of poems that’s readable, memorable, and truly likable. Skolfield’s voice is strongly pronounced, realistic with a comfortable familiarity about it that makes room for a good deal of humor. (Her titles tend to be funny even when the poems aren’t.) There’s no pretentiousness here, however cosmic the reach of her musings; she asks many questions and leaves the door open for mystery, but she grounds her poems with defined characters and concrete experiences, in both the natural and the social world. Those characters and experiences tend to be familial, so there is much here that will speak to the mother reader. The title selection is a plain and poignant vignette in which the speaker and her husband make pesto on the eve of an early frost while joking about the gap between their life expectancies. In ‘Last of a Species,’ the speaker remembers the newspaper photograph of a nearly-extinct bird that her father had cut out and put away in a buffet drawer, a gesture utterly unlike him. In ‘The Sound Under the Car Can’t Be Good,’ she is haunted by a relentless automotive thwacking reminiscent of children clamoring for attention, ‘a reminder of a woman trying not to hear.’ My very favorite of all might be ‘After Making a Wrong Turn I Become Stubborn and Pretend to Know These Barns.’ It captures perfectly how we—in life and in poetry—insist on identification, how we manifest our faith in whatever we come from by claiming that it defines the world beyond our particular sphere. Skolfield’s poetry is for those of us who don’t mind owning a bit of that stubbornness, who, like the cows banging their heads through mended fences, ‘live in a state of unlost, hoping / for the rare moments of meander.'”

…and you can read the whole “Now Reading” column here:

I also have a poem up at Oddball Magazine, a kind of goofy fun little thing I wrote, so isn’t Oddball the perfect home for it? My apologies… ahem… to people living in Delaware. See, I grew up there, and… (hangs head in shame). Here’s the link:

Look at that – the page has a rating system. People of Delaware, feel free to give it one out of five stars. I get it.

And finally: I’m writing some fan notes this afternoon, because who doesn’t love getting a fan note? First to fiction writer Vincent Scarpa: his short story “Best Behavior” in the summer 2015 Indiana Review was knockout (and, pssst, I had a poem in this issue, which was a great reason to tuck into the whole journal). Second fan note goes to Robin Coste Lewis for her incredible poem “Summer,” which you can read here thanks to the Academy of American Poets. http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/summer-3

Happy August!

Persephone Magazine’s Reading Challenge

Did I say I was publishing twice today? Well, then this is the bonus third. Check out Persephone Magazine’s reading challenge which involves reading many categories / styles of books: it includes challenges of books to read such as “A book with a one-word title,” “A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.),” “A book in translation,” “A graphic novel,” etc. There are 20 book challenges; writer Sara Habein records the results of taking on this challenge. At #17, “A book of poetry,” she’s read my book. Here’s what she had to say:

“I let this collection of poetry languish unread in my collection for far too long. It wasn’t for any particular reason; I just kept forgetting to pick it up. Finally, I’ve read it, and it’s magnificent and feels personal and is exactly what I’m looking for when I want a book of poetry, somewhat in the same way I love Tracy K. Smith’s work.”

…which is pretty sweet to say.

Click here for the reading challenge, and get reading.

‘Writers Who Read’ Interview

And here’s the second of two interviews posted on the same day. This one was especially fun: G.G. Andrew asks me questions about books I love. It’s occurred to me that I like this a lot more than the usual construction of “Which writers do you admire / emulate / hold up as gods” etc., the question that always makes me falter and go dry-mouthed. Which is silly. What’s the difference?

I’ll keep pondering this, and in the meantime, click here for the interview.

Here’s an excerpt, in answer to Andrew asking me about my book weaknesses:

“I’m not often into bestsellers, and I am discouraged on every level when the ‘must-read’ author lists of The New York Times and NPR are blindingly white. As readers, as makers of these lists, who are we if we can’t diversify our reading? I don’t want to read only books by people who occupy the very tiny niche I live in. Books by people who are not my exact demographic continue to make me a better person, a more compassionate and thoughtful person; they challenge me in great ways.”

Here’s to more challenges and great books to be read and re-read.

‘Balancing the Tide’ Interview

Oh, look. I’m not even a month behind posting. First up is #1 of two interviews that went live the same day: this one is via Molly Sutton Kiefer’s blog “Balancing the Tide,” which focuses on mothering and art. Click here for the interview.

And here’s an excerpt. Kiefer asks me about the process of writing and how it’s changed since having kids; I answer:

“…being aware of a good line/idea as it enters my head is the difference between writing a poem or not on any given day. My kids are my primary obligation, and thankfully they’re of the age – 8 & 10 – that I really can go ‘Hold on, kids, gotta write this note to myself’ without worrying about them wandering into traffic or sticking rocks up their noses. At the same time, I don’t have the ability to drop their needs and go write the entire poem. I’ve learned to make peace with putting that one line on paper. My kids always seem to be hungry. Well, it’s snack time somewhere in the world, I guess.”

Check out the other interviews on the site with Alicia Ostriker, Rachel Zucker, Annie Finch, Julianna Baggott, and more.

Review of Sarah Marcus’s Backcountry (Finishing Line Press)

Sarah Marcus, Backcountry

My review of Sarah Marcus’s chapbook, Backcountry, was published today by As It Ought To Be. Marcus’s poems are wonderful and rich: read my review here.

This is my first-ever review, and I’m ridiculously happy about it and also incredibly grateful at how engaging the chapbook was. I don’t think I could write a review that seriously dinged a book, so I’m glad I didn’t ever have to consider that.

How To Write an Acceptance Speech

“How To Write an Acceptance Speech” – I actually googled this because, tomorrow, I have to give one. And what do poets know about such things? I’m sure there was good advice in the sites that popped up, but I’ll never know, because I started writing the poem “How To Write an Acceptance Speech” instead, which was full of not-very-useful advice on a lot of things not related to speechifying, like the correct color of a roux for your gumbo (chocolate-milk color, y’know).

Maybe there are poets who like to give speeches. I’m not one of them, but New England Public Radio is giving me their Arts & Humanities Award tomorrow, so I had to shape up. Over the past few weeks I briefly considered a call-and-response acceptance speech (nixed), then a poem acceptance speech in which the words “new” “england” “public” “radio” were part of a sestina’s end words (nixed), and I dreamed I had to sing my acceptance speech (woke in cold sweat). I’ve gone through all the grief-stages associated with loss as part of my need to write an acceptance speech, and here I am, 36 hours out, finally at acceptance. I’m even excited (which I’m sure is not part of the grief-stages).

NEPR has been fabulous – they even made a broadside of one of my poems to give out to everyone at the event tomorrow. If they let me put it online, I’ll do that in an upcoming post.

Hopefully I’ll see some of your shiny, happy faces tomorrow. I promise I won’t sing.