Thursday, April 30, 2020

Marin Poetry Center Online Covid Confinement Writing Retreat: Imagery

Day 4: Imagery


Today we examine the importance of the lyrical-narrative poem's imagery that allows the reader to see the action and characters in the mind's eye, rather than simply hear the poet talk about them.



The first horse I ever saw
  was hauling a wagon stacked with furniture
    past storefronts along Knickerbocker Avenue.
He was taller than a car, blue-black with flies,

and bits of green ribbon tied to his mane
  bounced near his caked and rheumy eyes.
    I had seen horses in books before, but
this horse shimmered in the Brooklyn noon.

I could hear his hooves strike the tar,
  the colossal nostrils snort back the heat,
    and breathe his inexorable, dung-tinged fume.
Under the enormous belly, his ------

swung like the policeman's nightstick,
  a dowsing rod, longer than my arm--
    even the Catholic girls could see it
hung there like a rubber spigot.

When he let loose, the steaming street
  flowed with frothy, spattering urine.
    And when he stopped to let the junkman
toss a tabletop onto the wagon bed,

I worked behind his triangular head
  to touch his foreleg above the knee,
    the muscle jerking the mat of hair.
Horse, I remember thinking,

four years old and standing there,
  struck momentarily dumb,
    while the power gathered in his thigh
surged like language into my thumb.

By Michael Waters. From Parthenopi: New and Selected Poems (BOA, 2001)


Sight, sound, touch, hearing--there is not a line in "Horses" that does not utilize one or more of those senses. This poem lives in the world of sensate experience through its vivid images composed of concrete language. And yet, by the poem's end the reader is exposed to an abstract truth about poetry itself--something to do with the power of image and language and how they affected a little boy to become a poet because they are the basis of poetry itself. But if the poem had stated that truth using those or other abstract terms, the poem would be telling us in a way that countless weaker poems do. Instead, Waters shows us how the experience of a horse was the basis of his becoming a poet in those final lines (still grounded in the concrete): "while the power gathered in his thigh / surged like language into my thumb." The only abstract word in these lines (and one of the few in the poem) is "language," and yet even it lives in two worlds at once, evidenced by the words you're reading on this screen that can be printed on paper.

In addition, notice how many of Waters' lines accomplish their purpose with few or no adjectives or other modifiers--instead, lot of nouns and verbs, the bones and muscles of language. Very little connective tissue is present. This enables readers to "see" pictures in their minds. You can't really see anything except nouns and verbs--people, places, and things, doing something, acting on something, or being acted upon.

I happen to know Michael Waters. And I know that he underwent a major shift early on in his understanding of how to approach writing a poem. In his early twenties, he thought the best way to create a poem was to begin with an idea for a poem, and then to let that idea guide where the poem went. After his first book, he discovered that a better way was to begin with language itself--a word, a line, a few lines--and then to allow that language to go where it seemed it wanted to go. To give language its head--pun intended. Ever since, Waters' poetry has lived in the concrete, but in so doing has discovered timeless truths--a prosody that has produced, in my opinion, some of the best poetry of the second half of the twentieth and first two decades of the twenty-first century. An interview with John Hoppenthaller in which Waters speaks about that change is no longer available online. However, I share portions of it in another blog post while reviewing Waters' book, The Dean of DisciplineHERE.


Write a poem about an animal or object using concrete images in every line. Be sure to remain in the concrete until the very end. Refrain from overtly telling how the object of your affection made you feel or stating some abstract truth. If there is a greater truth in the poem, give yourself permission to use only one abstract word in the final line to point to it. Consult a thesaurus to find concrete words that shape your images so they lean toward that truth, but never state it outright. And remember to use more nouns and verbs and fewer modifiers. Have fun!


Boulevard: Submissions are open until May 1st and include a year's subscription HERE.

2020 Passager Poetry Contest: Deadline is May 10th for this press that only accepts submissions from writers over age 50. Submit HERE.


Sicilian-Inspired Blood Orange Salad

Serves: 4


For the salad:

3 Cara Cara oranges, cut into segments

6 blood oranges, cut into segments

1/4 large red onion, cut as thinly as possible

1 bunch of mint, julienned and a few leaves torn

1/4 cup sheep's milk feta

For the dressing:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1/3 cup pistachios, lightly crushed

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Assemble all the citrus segments in a large bowl and mix in onions. Set aside.

2. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the cumin seeds and cook until the seeds pop slightly and a lovely fragrance emits from the pan. Add vinegar to the pan and swirl to mix. Season with salt and pepper and toss all over the citrus. Mix in pistachios. When plating, add mint and pistachios to the tops of each portion.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Marin Poetry Center Online Covid Confinement Writing Retreat: Lyricism

Day 3: Lyricism


Today we look at how lyricism slows down or halts the narrative flow in a poem in order to allow the poem to sing.



In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the years, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets:   chip chip. Dew:   I've forgotten.
Naked:   I've forgotten.
Ni, wo:   you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn't ripe or sweet, I didn't eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents' cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He's so happy that I've come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloths,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

By Li-Young Lee. From Rose (BOA, 1986)


Being one of the 3 classical divisions of poetry (lyrical, dramatic, and epic or narrative), much has been written about lyrical poetry. A helpful, easy-to-read article on "" summarizes the following:

  • A lyric poem is a private expression of emotion by an individual speaker.
  • Lyric poetry is highly musical and can feature poetic devices like rhyme and meter
  • Some scholars categorize lyric poetry in three subtypes: Lyric of Vision, Lyric of Thought, and Lyric of Emotion.
For our purposes, we are not so much concerned with what constitutes a "lyric poem," but rather what lyricism in a lyrical-narrative poem entails. That is much easier to describe. My definition would be a break or slow down in the flow of the narrative that focuses more on the language than on forwarding the story, usually by describing (through all kinds of prosodic devices such as simile, metaphor, repetition, meter, rhyme, half-rhyme, chiming, etc.) things from external or internal landscapes. In our eating metaphor, lyricism is slowing down the chewing and swallowing  of the story in order to savor each bite through all of the senses. 

And, appropriately, "Persimmons" is not a purely lyrical poem, but rather a poem that tells a story (or several stories) with markedly different stanzas--some almost purely narrative, and others almost purely lyrical. I say almost, because Lee's language is so powerful that even when it is forwarding the story it has delicious lyrical overtones, and whenever he halts it completely to dwell on a single flavor, it still contributes to the story. Look at the following breakdown and see if you agree:

Stanza One is primarily narrative. (By the way, notice how the opening lines grabs our attention by jumping right into the action of "...Mrs. Walker / slapped the back of my head.")

Stanza Two is primarily lyrical. The action is slowed down by naming and describing each step of peeling, sucking, chewing, and finally swallowing the sweet persimmon meat with gorgeous language.

Stanza Three resumes a narrative pace, although the scene has changed (see yesterday's comments on writing off subject), and there is a healthy dose of lyrical imagery and a metaphorical description of two lovers.

Stanza Four slows the narrative pace again with rumination, explanation, and description using metaphor. 

Stanza Five picks up the pace with the story of Mrs. Walker bringing a persimmon to class, cutting it up, and passing it around for everyone to eat a bite. More action, less description.

Stanza Six is only three lines long and stands in contrast to the previous stanza by providing the metaphor: "...every persimmon has a sun / inside, something golden, glowing / warm as my face."

Read the remaining stanzas and decide which is more dominant, narrative or lyricism. Or are any stanzas pretty much evenly balanced? What about the gorgeous final stanza? Lyrical? Certainly. Does it have any narrative element(s) at all?

I am aware that I have overly-simplified the kinds of lines in a poem. Certainly not all lines of every poem can be categorized as narrative or lyrical. Some lines are mere conversation--either actual conversation between characters or, more commonly, a conversation between the poet and the reader, such as the early lines in stanza two: "...This is precision. / Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted." Pretty much just information. However, by the end of the stanza: "...Now eat / the meat of the fruit, so sweet, / all of it, to the heart," the language is definitely lyrical--those "e" and "t" sounds really cause the lines to sing. Where does the transition occur? It's difficult to tell. And that brings up another category of language in a poem: transitional language. So, we have now discussed at least four different categories of poetic lines in a lyrical-narrative poem: 1) narrative; 2) lyrical; 3) conversational; and 4) transitional. My point in all of this has been to distinguish between the language that "tells the story" and the language that "stops or slows down the action and sings about the props and scenery and actors.


Prompt 1:

Write a lyrical-narrative poem that alternates one stanza of furthering the story with the next stanza slowing down or stopping the story and using language to provide description that uses repetition of sounds. Try to stay in the concrete rather than using abstract words such as "love" or "beauty." Play with making a strong distinction between stanzas, occasionally throwing in a stanza balanced with both narrative and lyricism.

Prompt 2:

For those of you who already write lyrical-narrative poems, go back to some of your completed poems or drafts in-progress and identity each line as either narrative, lyrical, conversational, or transitional. Then ask yourself whether you have enough narrative and lyrical lines and if they are in the right balance. How do you know? One way is to have other poets read your poem and tell you. But you can also play a game with your poem. Pretend you are reading it to an audience. When you think the audience (or you) might be possibly bored with "just the story," add some lyrical language. When you feel that the poem has lost its way and is wandering, get back to the story. Then have someone else read your poem for their reaction. 


Great River Review is Minnesota's oldest literary journal. Deadline for submissions for issue #67 is May 1st. Submit HERE.


Persimmon risotto with pancetta and goat cheese:

Course:          Main
Cuisine:         Italian

Prep Time:    5 minutes
Cook Time:   20 minutes
Total Time:   25 minutes

Servings:       2
Author:         Giulia on Jul's Kitchen


1 shallot
200 g of rice for risotto, such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
1/2 glass of white wine
50 ml of lightly salted hot water or hot vegetable stock
1 Fuyu persimmon, diced
100g fresh goat's cheese
2 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
50 g of pancetta
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Cover the bottom of a casserole with extra virgin olive oil, then add the finely minced shallot. Add a pinch of salt, too, so the shallots will stew without burning, as the salt will extract their moisture.

2. When the shallots are wilted and golden, add the rice and toast it over medium heat for a few minutes, then pour in the white wine.

3. When the wine has been absorbed, gradually add the hot stock or hot water, stirring often and cooking the rice over medium-low heat. The cooking time will vary depending on the type of rice you have chosen. Usually 15 minutes should be enough.

4. Halfway through the cooking, add the chopped persimmon, then keep on cooking, adding more stock.

5. While the risotto is cooking, slice the pancetta and brown it on medium fire in a pan, then turn off the heat and set aside.

6. When the rice is al dente, remove it from the heat and stir in the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh goat's cheese. Stir to cream the cheese, then add the browned pancetta with its rendered fat. Add some freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Marin Poetry Center Online Covid Confinement Writing Retreat: Narrative

Day 2: Direct & Indirect Narrative


Today we will look at two narrative strategies for the lyrical-narrative poem. Direct narrative utilizes the traditional narrative arc of introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement or resolution. Indirect narrative also tells a story, but is not bound to those categories or that progression.


The Miracle

A man staring into the fire                                                      
sees his dead brother sleeping.

The falling flames go yellow and red
but it is him, unmistakable.

He goes to the phone and calls                                                           
his mother.  Howard is asleep,

he tells her.  Yes, she says,
Howard is asleep.  She does not cry.

In her Los Angeles apartment
with its small color tv                                                                         

humming now unobserved,
she sees Howard rocking

alone beneath the waves
of an ocean she cannot name.

Howard is asleep, she says                                                                 
to the drapes drawn on the night.

That night she dreams
a house alive with flames, their

old house, and her son sleeping
peacefully in the kingdom of agony.                                                   

She wakens near morning,
the dream more real

than the clock luminous beside her
or the gray light rising slowly

above the huddled town, more real                                                     
than the groan of the first car.

She calls her son who has risen
for work and tells him,

Howard is warm and at peace.
He sees the crusted snows of March                                                  

draining the cold light of a day
already old, he sees himself

unlocking the front door of his shop,
letting the office help in, letting

Eugene and Andy, the grease men                                                      
step before him out of the snow.

When she hangs up he looks out
on the back yard, the garbage cans

collapsing like sacks of air, the fence
holding a few gray sparrows,                                                              

he looks out on the world he always sees
and thinks, it’s a miracle.

By Philip Levine. From Selected Poems (Atheneum, 1984)


Old people spit with absolutely no finesse
and bicycles bully traffic on the sidewalk.
The unknown poet waits for criticism
and reads his verses three times a day
like a monk with his book of hours.
The brush got old and no longer brushes.
Right now what's important
is to untangle the hair.
We give birth to life between our legs
and go on talking about it till the end,
few of us understanding:
it's the soul that's erotic.
If I want, I put on a Bach suite
so I can feel forgiving and calm.
What I understand of God is His wrath;
there's no other way to say it.
The ball thumping against the wall annoys me,
but the kids laugh, contented.
I've seen hundreds of afternoons like today.
No agony, just an anxious impatience:
something is going to happen.
Destiny doesn't exist.
It's God we need, and fast.

By Adelia Prado (translated by Ellen Watson). From The Alphabet in the Park (Wesleyan University Press, 1990).


The two poems above are emblematic of two ways of maintaining and building the energy in the body of a poem after the first lines. Both engage the senses and the emotions of the reader. However, Levine builds the energy to a climax through sequential actions and then allows the energy to fall away to a resolution. Prado uses a more meandering, almost anti-narrative strategy with a series of what seem to be non-sequiturs. And yet, a story is told. Both techniques attempt to turn up the energy introduced in the first lines through increased engagement with the reader's senses and emotions.

Levine is a great story teller. In "The Miracle," the classic five-step outline of 1) Introduction of a problem or conflict; 2) Rising Action; 3) Climax; 4) Falling Action; and 5) Resolution can be traced. After the opening four lines that get our attention with the image of a dead brother sleeping in a fire of red and yellow flames, the poet maintains and even turns up the heat in the ensuing rising action, and then lets it cool down after the climax. An examination of each sense would see this increase in energy. But observe, for example, what Levine does with color. The rising action spreads those yellow and red flames of the opening lines to the mother's apartment with its "color TV" that spill into her dream of a house "alive with flames." She awakens the next morning with the "clock luminous" carrying that energy through the night into the "gray light" of morning "rising slowly above the huddled town." And as those images of hot and cool colors rise, peak, and fall throughout the poem, the intensity of the story rises and falls as well.

The climax (re-read the poem to see if you agree) occurs when the mother "calls her son who has risen / for work and tells him, // Howard is warm and at peace." After those lines the action seems to fall and the imagery cools off appropriately: "He [her son] sees the cold light of a day / already old..." And in the next eight lines we have the cooler, colder images of "the grease men / step[ping] before him out of the snow," "the garbage cans //collapsing..." and "...the fence / holding a few gray sparrows." The final couplet provides the resolution of "look[ing] out on the world he always sees / and thinks, it's a miracle."

Notice how Prado in her opening lines engages our senses with images of "old people spit[ting]" and "bicycle...traffic on the sidewalk" and appeals to our emotions by showing us how the old people spit ("with no finesse") and how the bicycles navigate the sidewalks (they "bully" there way along). Many poets would continue writing about the old people or the bicyclists, describing them more or talking about old people in general, what it means to be old and why they spit. Or some would select a particular bicyclist and tells us what he had for breakfast, where he was going, and what he was going to do when he got there--.or attempt to stay on the subject in other ways. But Prado doesn't do that. Instead of the standard step-by-step way of building a story, she writes "off subject."

"The unknown poet waits for criticism / and reads his verses three times a day / like a monk with his book of hours." What? I asked myself the first time I read this poem over a decade ago. And then I discovered that the remainder of the poem contained similar seismic shifts in subject matter every two or three lines. Richard Wilbur speaks to this kind of writing in the first chapter ("Writing Off the Subject") of his classic The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing (W.W. Norton, 1979):

Young poets find it difficult to free themselves from the initiating subject. The poet puts down the title: "Autumn Rain." He finds two or three good lines about Autumn Rain. Then things start to break down. He cannot find anything more to say about Autumn Rain so he starts making up things, he strains, he goes abstract, he starts telling us the meaning of what he has already said. The mistake he is making, of course, is that he feels obligated to go on talking about Autumn Rain, because that, he feels, is the subject. Well, it isn't the subject. You don't know what the subject is, and the moment you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain start talking about something else. In fact, it's a good idea to talk about something else before you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain....It is impossible to write meaningless sequences. In a sense the next thing always belongs. In the world of imagination, all things belong. If you take that on faith, you may be foolish, but foolish like a trout.

I believe that Prado didn't change the subject from old people and bicycles on the sidewalk to a poet waiting for criticism because she ran out of things to say, but rather because she believed what Hugo said, that it was important to keep the energy going in the poem by changing topics before things got boring and because the remaining lines all did have something to do with one another, just not in a linear way.

Notice the leap from one subject to another:

1. Old people, bicycles, and bullying on the sidewalk. (Lines 1-2)
2. Poet and his poems. (Lines 3-5)
3. Brush and hair.  (Lines 6-8)
4. Giving birth. (Lines 9-12)
5. Music. (Lines 13-14)
6. God's wrath. (Lines 15-16)
7. Kids playing. (Lines 17-18)
8. Today. (Lines 19-21)
9. Destiny and God. (Lines 22-23)

Who would have thought the poem could traverse these subjects on its way from "Old people" to "God." But did Prado really change the topic with each shift? After reading the poem a few times, a logic emerges from the sound of the language itself--its music, its rhythms, its tones. I know it's a translation, but the translator chose words intentionally, so its sound work is not by chance. Notice the tonal connections down the page ("finesse / verses" and "erotic / Bach / wrath / caught / agony / anxious / happen / fast"). And notice how elements of each new subject can apply to the previous or other subjects. The criticism that the poet is waiting for could be directed toward the bullying in the previous lines. The mysteries of giving birth, the soul, God's wrath, and destiny vs. God's interaction with people need to be untangled the way the hair needs to be in the previous lines, but the tools (belief in "Destiny" and a "God" that acts in history) are old and no longer work the way they once did.

This is a narrative that has faith in the reader by demanding collaboration, in the same way the poet has faith that "something is going to happen" and demands more from language about ultimate reality than than her religious tradition has provided. To confirm that statement, I invite you to read the entire collection, with poems containing lines such as: "Poetry will save me. / I feel uneasy saying this, since only Jesus / is Savior..." ("Guide"), and "God looks at me and I am terrified. / ... / Before He knows it, there I am in His lap. / I pull on His white beard. / He throws me the ball of the world, / I throw it back" ("Two Ways").

On a personal note, when I first read this poem in 2006, it gave me, for the first time, permission to write any line beneath any other line without worrying whether it "followed it" in some way that I intended or already perceived. It opened up an entirely new way of creating poetry drafts for me.

And on a final note, if you go back to yesterday's poem, "If There Is Another World," you will notice that Morling periodically changes what seems to be the subject quite abruptly throughout her poem. Each time it re-charges the energy present in the poem in a way that is a blending of Levine's and Prado's strategies. Tomorrow we will examine another way of interrupting the narrative flow in a poem--with lyricism.


Straight Narrative Poem

Write a poem that tells a story. Pick one sense (sight, sound, touch, etc,) and one attribute of that sense (size, color, shape, etc. for sight; volume, pitch, etc. for sound; texture, temperature, etc. for touch) and increase or decrease that attribute throughout the poem to correspond to rising or falling action in your narrative. There's no right or wrong--have fun with it!

Writing off the subject.

Select a draft of a poem you have already written or the first lines you wrote for yesterday's prompt. After the first two or three lines (maximum) and before the subject or idea seems finished or complete, begin writing about another subject that doesn't seem to have anything to do with the first subject. After two or three more lines, do it again. Again. Again. For extra credit, when you think the poem might be finished, go back and see if there is any connection between the subjects. Rearrange the lines or manipulate the language to tease out those connections with sound or some other way, like every other line being the next step in the story.


For those of you without a published collection, Best New Poets is open for submissions until May 15th. Link is HERE.

For all of you, consider submitting to the Montreal International Poetry Contest. The prize is an astonishing $20K for one poem, 40 lines or less. And lest you think it impossible, Marin Poetry Center's own Erin Rodoni won the award in 2017. Why not give it a try. Even you you don't win, you might end up in the anthology. Early entry (save money) deadline is May 1. Final judge is Yusef Komunyakaa. Link is HERE.


For improved mood and quick energy to write a poem, try this carb-laden quick pasta carbonara recipe HERE. In case you have trouble with the link, I've copied and pasted the recipe below:

Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence (Food 911; Episode "Mangia! Mangia")

Level: Intermediate

Total: 25 min
Prep: 15 min
Cook: 10 min
Yield: 4-6 servings


1 pound dry spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped


1. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian "al dente"). Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Ad the pancetta and sauce for about 3 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and sauce for less than 1 minute to soften.

4. Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen). Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Pass more cheese around the table.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Marin Poetry Center Online Covid Confinement Writing Retreat: Opening Lines


This week (April 27th-May 3rd) I will be hosting a series that will examine the lyrical-narrative free verse poem. Each day a poem, craft essay, and prompt will center on various parts of the poem: opening lines, body of the poem (4 aspects in 4 days--narrative arc, lyricism, imagery, and emotional connection), closing lines, and on the final day title and epigraphs. In addition, a submission suggestion and recipe will conclude each day's entry. 

For fun, the recipes match up with the various parts of the poem--appetizers (opening lines), body of the poem (main course), closing lines (dessert), and title / epigraphs (after-dinner drinks). 

Day 1: Opening Lines


If There Is Another World

If there is another world,
I think you can take a cab there--
or ride your old bicycle
down Junction Blvd.
past the Paris Suites Hotel
with the Eiffel Tower on the roof
and past the blooming Magnolia and on--
to the corner of 168th Street.
And if you're inclined to,
you can turn left there
and yield to the blind
as the sign urges us--
especially since it is a state law.
Especially since there is a kind of moth
here on the earth
that feeds only on the tears of horses.
Sooner or later we will all cry
from inside our hearts.
Sooner or later even the concrete
will crumble and cry in silence
along with all the lost road signs.
Two days ago 300 televisions
washed up on a beach in Shiomachi, Japan,
after having fallen off a ship in a storm.
They looked like so many
oversized horseshoe crabs
with their screens turned down to the sand.
And if you're inclined to, you can continue
in the weightless seesaw of the light
through a few more intersections
where people inside their cars
pass you by in space
and where you pass by them,
each car another thought--only heavier.

By Malena Morning. From Astoria (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006)


"How do you begin a poem?" This question can be unpacked into many questions. "How do you transform the blank page into a first line or lines?" "Do you begin with a title or just start writing? "How do you evaluate the opening lines to a poem?" The list could go on. I'd like to briefly discuss how I determine the strength of opening lines. For me, all poetry--no matter whether it conforms to formal rules or whether its more organic (free verse)--should pay attention to two things: craft and emotional connection with the reader. The earlier those two elements appear in a poem the better. 

What makes the first sentence interesting?
Its exact shape and what it says
And the possibility it creates for another sentence.

            —Verlyn Klinkenborg, Several short sentences about writing (Vintage Books, 2012) 

Although Klinkenborg is not writing about poetry per se--hence he's discussing "the first sentence"--we can substitute "line" or "first lines" for "sentence." What makes first lines of poetry interesting for me are: 1) vivid, fresh images that I can easily access (my interpretation of "exact shape and what it says"); and 2) the possibilities the lines create for future lines.

Why do I want images in first lines? Jack Gilbert points out in an interview by Chard deNiord  (Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs: Conversations and Reflections on Twentieth Century American Poets, Marick Press, 2012) that "Seeing is infinitely older [than speaking]," and engages the reader much more than abstractions. And early engagement with the reader is what I'm after in first lines.

I think one of the main things [about great poetry] is simply concrete detail. After all, speaking is one of the newer arts of human beings. Seeing is infinitely older. We react from seeing something much more than we react from hearing it said. We are designed to respond to physicality. Like in a basketball game, the man who is going to shoot the ball to win the game is standing there doing nothing at the line. Now, what he is doing often is visualizing himself taking the ball, making it bounce in his hand, lifting the muscle, shooting, watching it go up and up, and down and down and in the basket. When he does that, then his body can sense. Oh, I can do that! And I can imitate that! If you tell me an abstraction then, it's not good. It may or not get through. Draw me a picture, make a movie, and let me see. 

Morling's lines engage me physically because I can easily see myself getting into that yellow cab in NYC or Chicago or anywhere else and setting out on a journey. But that image alone does not necessarily engage me emotionally.                        

The first line should pry up
A little corner of the soul

As the first ray of daylight
Pries open the sleeper’s lids.

            —Suzanne Buffam, “ On First Lines,” The Irrationalist (Canarium Books, 2010)

In the same way, Buffam says, that my body awakens to the sunlight streaming in the window, something in the first line(s) should engage me on deeper levels. And that's what Morling's twice repeated "If there is another world" does for me--it draws out my desire for discovery, for a quest. "Another world" sounds enticing and draws me into possible new realms both beyond this one and within me. Thus in two lines (not counting the title), the poet has engaged my senses and my emotions. In addition, she has opened up the poem to allow for any direction that she may choose to go. How those choices are made will be the topic of our craft talk for tomorrow.


Easy Prompt:

Take Morling's first two lines as the first two lines of your poem titled "Poem Beginning with Lines By Malena Morning" and take a different direction from the one she took. Remember to stay in the concrete, sensate world, and try to use that imagery to "show" any deeper meaning, rather than "tell" about it. (More about this tomorrow when we discuss the middle of a poem.)

Medium Prompt:

Take only the first line and half of the second line ("If there is another world, I think ...") and complete the line in a different way entirely. Remember to remain primarily in the world of sensate experience and complete the line with interesting images that engage your readers, as well as open possibilities for future lines. Examples: "If there is another world, I think the wind lifts fallen leaves back to trees." "If there is another world, I think Elizabeth Warren is president there."

Advanced Prompt:

Take only half of the first line "If there is..." and fill in the line with something else. Example: "If there is grass that lives forever, my mother would never plant it in her yard."


Most journals and contests do not accept previously published poems. The Aesthetica Magazine Writing Contest (anthology for finalists) is currently accepting submissions HERE. Previously published and simultaneously submitted work is allowed. 


Creamy Goat Cheese, Bacon, and Date Dip (From Ali Slagle on

To begin the poem or the meal, pleasing the senses and preparing them to experience more is a must. This Creamy Goat Cheese, Bacon, and Date Dip meets both requirements, and can be seasoned to be as spicy as your palate can handle. (If you have a NYT account, just click on the link above. If not, I've reproduced the recipe below for your convenience.)

YIELD: 6-8 servings

TIME: 30 minutes

This appetizer is like a bacon-wrapped date in dip form--and every bit as luxe, sweet and simultaneously smoky as that sounds. Here, as you swipe crusty bread through the smooth cheese, you'll gather chunks of bacon and a bit of date, toffee-like from a quick fry in the meaty fat. You could embellish further with nuts, chile or honey [one reader recommends cartelized onions], or you could sip Champagne and dig into the dip prepared with only the ingredients below.


10 ounces goat cheese at room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt and pepper

5 ounces thick-cut bacon cut in 1/2-inch chunks

10 Medjool dates, pitted and cut into quarters lengthwise, or roughly chopped

Honey, red-pepper flakes, black pepper, flaky salt, toasted sliced almonds or chopped pistachios for garnish (optional)

Crusty bread, grainy crackers, endive or fennel for serving


Step 1

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together the goat cheese, cream cheese, lemon juice and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Transfer to a 1-quart baking dish or ovenproof skillet, and spread into an even layer. Bake until warmed through and bubbling--about 20-25 minutes.

Step 2

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp--about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, then add the dates to the bacon fat in the skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the insides are warm and the outsides blister--about 1 minute.

Step 3

Top the baked cheese with the dates and bacon, and garnish as you wish. Serve at once.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Sum of Us, Poems by Women Who Write: Ella Eytan, Melanie Maier, Angelika Quirk, Laurel Feigenbaum, Gabrielle Rilleau

In The Sum of Us, five women write with authoritative voices about love and loss, natural orders, and interior landscapes--past, present, and future. This quintet sings with individually recognizable voices, but blends in a harmonious chorus to underscore how powerful mature women's voices can be. The poems are well crafted and emotionally accessible, the goal of the kind of lyrical narrative poetry I enjoy. I include below a representative sample of each poet's work.

Ella Eytan

Among poems with lines such as "I can never / love you enough" ("Love Poem"), "Ah, love, / when I lift / your hand like this / and kiss each finger / that loves me so well, / I want to tell / them with my tongue / and teeth / how I love their feel" ("Your Hands"), and " the inside of all women--the flesh exposed, an / offering. I see how men love us, we are so open and real" ("Tomato"), lies this striking poem exposing multiple interior layers of selfhood available for discovery through spot-on metaphors:


     I am fresh-tossed hay,
     steam rising
     from the flanks of cows
     on a cold day.
     I'm the salt lick
     at the pastures edge,
     the tongue that hollows it.

     I am translucent
     as the snail,
     belly muscles rippling
     as I row across a lit window.

     I am many chambered--
     a nautilus. Your hand
     could span my sensuous curve.
     Lift me to your ear,
     there is the sea in me.
     Can you hear?

     Vast, that ocean--
     sudden winds, storms.
     It is inevitable--
     the night's first hint of light,
     then that pencil line
     of trouble
     before the dawn.

Laurel Feigenbaum

In addition to compelling poems about family and the natural world, Feigenbaum writes about musicians and composers from "Ol' Blue Eyes" to "Tommy Dorsey," as well as Hollywood stars like Ava Gardner. "Words and Music" is my favorite and seems emblematic of both Feigenbaum's interests and poetic style:

     Words and Music

     If this were a practice life--

     In the next
     I'd croon and scat like Ella
     Get down and dirty with Etta
     Glide across the floor with Fred or Gene
     Improvise with Basie
     Score like Sondheim or Hammerstein.

     In my spare time
     I'd cultivate a garden
     Be fluent in Spanish
     Make souffles like Julia
     Lounge, putter, fritter,

     Like peanut butter
     Have a big brother
     Add a lover.

Melanie Maier 

Maier's poems are highly imagistic and the short lines that populate most of them accentuate those images by leaving very little connective tissue between them. This concision makes for poems of high concentration. My favorite is "Birding." It works well on the page and read aloud, the intensity of its language enacting the brilliance of the birds that inhabit the poem, leading up to a terrific closing image.


     Desert heat rises.
     A binoculared couple
     sights the roadrunner,
     lizard dangling from its beak.
     A copper-colored hawk
     puffs its feathers
     and looks down at them
     from the telephone pole.

     They walk . . . stop . . . walk . . .
     pause to rest under sycamore.
     A vermillion flycatcher
     flashes its brilliant chest
     at his drab mate.
     On the fence white-winged doves
     from Mexico: they stop
     in Tucson to breed.

     One egg lies broken on the path.
     Ants swarm the spilled yolk.

Angelika Quirk

In contrast to Maier's short lines, Quirk's longer lines are appropriate for her poems containing a more narrative element. They still retain, however, moments of lyricism and musicality as evidenced in my favorite, "To Die, to Live"

     To Die, to Live

     Along white corridors, the smell of disinfectant, iodine,
     I push his wheelchair down the ramp for the last time,
     away form tubal attachments and ticking monitors,
     and nurses in scrubs like floating ghosts with stethoscopes
     checking his pulse, his breath, his heart. No machines,
     no monitors could measure his will to die, to live.
     When Father Murphy came to anoint the sick, he gave
     my husband not the last rites, but the Holy Eucharist.

     My father chose to live, to survive seven years in Lager 4736
     somewhere in Russia. He listened to ravens pecking
     on white birch: Morse code from his home in Hamburg.
     And we lit candles on windowsills.

     After a bout of cancer Tante Helga gave away her possessions:
     her clothes to the Salvation Army, her memories to her cousin,
     her songs to nobody but the wind. She refused to eat,
     praying for her soul to leave the body. She believed
     in the Karmic cycle, in cause and effect after the wishing bone
     no longer split. At the very end she handed me her ruby ring,
     red as the blood drop from her mouth when she died.

     He says he wants an orange. I pick the largest from our tree,
     carry it into the house like the sun after a dreary day.
     He sucks on it, inhales the scent, the light:
     the promise of another day, another night.

Gabrielle Rilleau

Rilleau not only adds her voice to the many love poems, nature poems, and poems about family already estabished in this volume, she finds a distinctive voice when she writes about retail. This is my favorite for its familiar yet interesting names of places, as well as its music. I'm also a sucker for retail poems, as I was in retail for half my life.

     First Jobs

     When I find myself
     in Walgreen's, CVS, or Longs,
     the smell of stale popcorn and cheap cosmetics
     instantly throws me back half a century
     to age twenty, Boston, Boyston Street, to J.J. Newberry's
     serving vanilla cokes
     and to St. Johnsbury, VT, to Ames Discount Department Store
     ringing up $3.00 ladies' shoes and men's $4.57 pants.

     In those days I walked a tightrope in fear
     of being pulled down a road
     where polyester slacks and plastic flowers were my destiny,
     a road my parents had done their best to steer us from,
     The New Yorker  and Harper's Bazaar always about,
     my father, a tailor's son, pointing out the importance
     of the French seam on a well-stitched shirt.

     Somehow I escaped.

     But those earlier years--one tentative step at a time,
     balancing that taut line along aisles
     of Whitman's Chocolates, bundles of packaged socks,
     cans of off-brand peanuts, and bottles of blue perfume--
     left their mark.

Each of these poems have left their delightful mark on me. And each of these poets have left their vibrant mark on the state of poetry in Marin County, California.

Ella Eytan began to keep a notebook of poems at the University of Chicago while she was earning her BA. She wrote a few poems in high school, but didn't become serious about her writing until 1980. Since then, Eytan has published two books of poetry--Haying the Far Fields: Poems on a Minnesota Childhood and After a Certain Age. She has been published in a number of journals including Seattle Review, California Quarterly, Barnabe Mountain Review, and Poet Lore.

Laurel Feigenbaum was born and raised in San Francisco and later lived in Beverly Hills. She holds a BA in English Literature from UC Berkeley and an MA in Educational Research and Psychology from San Francisco State University. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Nimrod, Highland Park Poetry Challenge, Les Femmes Folles Anthology of Women Poets, December, The Marin Poetry Center Anthology, and Voices Israel. Her first book is The Daily Absurd.

Melanie Maier was born and raised in San Francisco. She earned a BS from UC Berkeley and a JD from UC Hastings. Melanie's poetry has been published in numerous reviews including The Fourth River, phoebe, Southern California Review, and Gazette Wyborcza (Warsaw, Poland). Her three chapbooks are The Land of Us (Pudding House Press), Scattering Wind, and Night Boats. Her two full length collections (both from Conflux Press) are sticking to earth and Invention of the Moon.

Angelika Quirk was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. At eighteen she immigrated to the United States. A dancer, a teacher, an artist, a lover of music, a collector of words in German and in English, she has written poems about people and experiences going back to her German roots. Two of her books, After Sirens and Of Ruins and Rumors, are on display at the library of the German American Heritage Museum in Washington, DC.

Gabrielle Rilleau has lived in Marin County for over fifty years. She joined the Marin Poetry Center in 1996 which she credits with awakening the sleeping poet within her. Rilleau was raised on the tip of Cape Cod, where she returns twice annually for inspiration. She has a collection of Provincetown poems close to "being born," though she says it may be a cesarean. For decades she has studied under the masterful tutelage of Tom Centolella and David St. John, as well as other bay area poets.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Judy Brackett Crowe: Flat Water

Readers learn on the title page that "Nebraska," derived from Native American sources, means "Flat Water," this collection's title. Furthermore, "The first Europeans to see the Platte and to give it its name were French explorers and trappers, who referred to the river as La Riviere Plate ("flat river").

The Platte is the main character in this collection of ruminations about days gone by in the midwestern United States. "Migration: The Gathering" describes in precise language the landscapes emblematic of the region with its opening lines: "In the cold twilight, sandhill cranes gather in cornfields along the river, / the beautiful, the beautiful river, countless flocks of ten or twenty or more, / gleaning snacks from crop stubble before lifting off and settling on sandbars / in the frigid waters of the Platte."

Some of the most striking lines in the collection end this poem:

                                      If sandhills had four legs, they'd be horses, Pegasi.
     Their lightning--silver shooting through blue, their thunder--echoes of nine
     million years of wingbeat and song across the plains.
                                                                                         Earthbound, the watchers
     are left to wait another year, admiring their beautiful, flat photographs. And
     the shallow Platte abides, still and shining.

As in the above poem, whether it's with unforgettable images or open-ended abstractions, Brackett knows how to end a poem, either by clicking it shut with a strong image, or by expanding it into the infinite. In "Flight Plan," a girl on horseback is "...wonder[ing] / if she can swing high enough, fast enough, / far enough, swim/fly out the door and dive // into the pond or the house-high haystack. / No, not the haystack--needles, errant pitchforks." In "How to Make Ice Cream," the ending invites the reader into the space of the poem with "Now, notice the fireflies, the meadow smell in the air, the cars chugging / away down the south lane, hands waving out windows, toward Monday / and work, toward forever." In "Pony Girl," notice how the poet develops and maintains the conceit of girl as pony into the final lines, and incorporates iconic imagery of the midwest.

     Pony Girl

     Never a pony on the porch on Christmas morning or on her birthday. Just
     a palm-slapping-hip gallop down the mean streets across the tracks, the early
     Burlington just past, on its track-tethered way to the mountains, the far valleys.

     Pony girl circles the outskirts of town, swishing through tall grasses
     and milkweed, past corrals, pastures, fields, past hemmed-in horses and sad-eyed
     cows to the turnaround tree, wondering if one day she'll not turn around,

     if she'll follow the Burlington echo, cantering west toward the far valleys,
     toward the setting sun, her green eyes shining, milkweed floss in her mane.

In spite of the inherent space limitations of a chapbook, its two sections ("Becoming" and "Migration") provide a definite narrative arc. Section I sets the stage by introducing us to all of those midwestern images, plopping us down "in the middle" of the midwest, e.g., in "A River Runs Under It" with opening lines: "Under this flat plain land / great plains grasslands sandhills / middle of nowhere middle of everywhere...." Later in the poem all of our senses come alive as "the great shallow Platte / wends its indifferent way / to the Missouri:"

     through cottonwoods
     prairie grass--

     Shocking rocks otherworldly
     the shape of horses and ships
     tipis and tables pierce the low sky
     send their rock roots deep
     into the underground river

     Creatures of rare and homely
     delight call these plains home--
     June bug and firefly
     fritillary and swallowtail
     prairie chicken
     bobcat and red fox
     eagle and owl
     hawk and hare
     gray-plumed redheaded Sandhill Crane
     gangly graceful part-time Nebraskan
     Prairie dog that dog of a squirrel
     tunnels deeper these August dog days
     Wild ox and wold horse are gone
     Creeks vanish streams trickle
     The flat river shrinks
     its shores puckering

Lest you think this poem is simply a list, read these lines aloud and you will discover the musicality possible with short, crisp, imagistic lines, capturing the midwestern speech and sensibility, as much as its values of remaining close to the land and close to family. Here are the poem's closing lines:

     [The girl] feels its pull like water in her body
     like blood in her veins
     She knows it is there as she knows
     this place is her home and
     that raspberries and lilacs
        need sun
        need water
        need her

Even though these poems are accessible, grounded in both history and geography of place, and steer clear of prosodic calisthenics, they do not presume to think or feel for their readers. There is an open-endedness in both form and content, and a longing for something not quite attained that carries through to the final poem.

     remembering is what

     sandhill cranes do,
     have done--
     thousands millions flying
     from cold north
     through middlemost latitudes
     southward & back again
     for millennia

     is what
     western monarchs do--
     their autumn-colored rabble winging
     to eucalyptus groves
     to a kind of hanging-in-air
     some inner lodestar telling them
     where & when

     is what
     the river does or tries to do--
     eddies crags vortexes
     & dams be damned

     is what I want to do--
     remember my way from & to
     necessary latitudes longitudes
     outer & inner landscapes
     not sure-winged like sandhill or monarch
     but meandering
     like the river

Judy Brackett Crowe's stories and poems have appeared in many literary journals and anthologies. She has taught creative writing and English literature and composition at Sierra College. She is a member of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Born in Nebraska, she's lived in a small town in the northern Sierra Nevada foothills for many years. She is married to photographer Gene Crowe, and they have 3 children and 4 grandchildren. She believes that the right words in the right places are worth a thousand pictures, and, as other writers have said, she writes to discover what she thinks.

Flat Water (Finishing Line Press, 2019) is available for purchase at

Monday, April 6, 2020

Susanne West: Subterranean Light

In Subterranean Light, Susanne West's first poetry collection, poems search for the light in all of life--from the brilliant joy of grandchildren, through the grayness of the daily mundane, to the darkness of illness and death of loved ones. I like West's poems best that go straight for the focused gleam off concrete images.

     How We Are Helped

     I cut out tiny shapes
     from Japanese papers:
     glue them
     in harmonious relationships
     to the paper
     to each other
     to my eyes, hand and heart.

     I draw anything and everything:
     small, detailed
     in pen and ink,
     then brighten them
     with color.

     A memory.
     Young me
     settled in a corner of my room
     cutting out paper dresses
     for paper dolls,
     stringing together tiny glass beads,
     painting miniature ceramic pieces:
     tea cups
     Feeling safe
     with glimmers of joy.

     Being found me,
     gave me ways
     to stay steady
     in this uncertain world
     and helped me
     trust beauty
     as a compass.

Whenever West trusts these concrete images without adding too much abstraction, as she executes in "How We Are Helped," the compass of language leads her to that beauty, causing me as a reader to trust her voice as well. Additionally, I am usually not a fan of single word lines, but the technique serves this poem as well as the next, "Sarah Kisses," in which she effectively utilizes them to enact the kisses themselves before circling back to the opening image for a solid ending.

     Sarah kisses often,
     and always
     as if it's a butterfly wing
     she cherishes
     and must touch.

     At the age of four
     she still kisses
     the air
     the plate of rice, beans and salsa
     lady bugs
     tree trunks
     my hand
     her mama everywhere
     and her blankie.

     she gently bunched up
     the loose skin
     on my elbow
     and her eyes seemed to say,
     "I understand, Grandma."
     Then she kissed
     my elbow
     as if it was a butterfly wing.

Adding personification, direct address, hyperbole, and metaphor as she blends images into narrative, West expands her range and leans into the wisdom motif that permeates the collection in "Angel of Sadness,"

     She extends her hand.
     Stone, I am.

     Sadness says,
     "You will fall.
     I will be with you.
     You will break.
     I will take the pieces
     and turn them into gold.
     You will wail an ocean.
     I will teach you to swim.
     You won't know who you are.
     I will walk beside you
     as you shed the skins
     you never were.

In "Phoenix," the poet opens with these simple, gorgeous lines: "Dusk. / The day and I / quiet / as snow. After morning's stillness, the poet's attention is drawn to "My daughter's Facebook post. / A few words and emojis / about pain / and prayers." After three stanzas of rumination, and declaration that "My daughter, though, / is a phoenix," she returns to "Dusk. / The day and I / quiet / as snow," appropriately enacting the title and content of the poem with its form.

In the section titled "The Hand of Death," the poem "Ending" contains at its core perhaps the strongest lines in this collection, lines that allow me to visualize the "small world" of an eighty-eight-year-old loved one whose "body [is] / folding in / on itself," filled with the light from a "blaring TV" in gorgeous, musical language.

     The bathroom, the kitchen, the front hall table,
     where you gather your precious coupons.

     Pill bottles
     carefully arranged,
     the way you tried
     with your life.
     The Temazepam
     that the doctor finally conceded to
     after you wore him down,
     that you count and count
     and guard with your fear.

     Blaring TV.
     Law and Order, Criminal Minds, British mysteries.
     A world to figure out.
     The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Seinfeld.
     A world to make you laugh.
     Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper,
     Andrea Mitchell.
     A world to worry about.

     Altar items on the bed.
     Pictures of us.
     A 45-year-old love note from Dad.
     A 3 x 5 card--
     "Do what you fear. Watch it disappear."
     A large magnifying glass for TV weekly.
     Candy for your unhappiness.
     A glass bell to signal need.

     At times you are content
     in the cocoon
     awaiting your flight.

Carefully arranged, like pill bottles, West's poems are medicine for the soul as they assure us that there is "subterranean light" in everything. These poems find it and show us how to appropriate it for our living and our writing.

Susanne West is a writer, poet, professor of psychology and non dual coach. She was on the faculty of John F. Kennedy University for thirty years and taught classes in the Consciousness and Transformative Studies and BA Psychology Programs. Susanne received the Harry L. Morrison Distinguished Teaching Award at JFKU. She also served as Chair of the Department of Liberal Arts and Director of the BA Psychology Program. 

Susanne has worked in community organizations and private settings with individuals and groups since 1984, specializing in psychospiritual growth and transformation, writing and creative expression. She is the founder of two writing programs--Words with Wings and Deep Writing.

She is the author of Soul Care for Caregivers: How to Help Yourself While Helping Others. Subterranean Light, available in April of 2020, is her first poetry collection.