Spring/Summer 2016 Issue 9: Song Of Myself

Song of myself

Red Wolf Journal Issue 9 (Spring/Summer 2016)
Our theme: “Song Of Myself”

Welcome to the Spring/Summer 2016 issue.

What is this singing which poets do? In Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”, he sings of “fountains, meadows, hills, and groves” invoking spring/summer with the joyous singing of birds. But it is with a “philosophic mind” that he did it. His song is the way poetry lies against time and nature. So poems function as a mirror and as a dreamscape both. You sing of these things. Therefore they exist. Or they exist, therefore you sing of these things. Either is subjectively true. After all, it is the nature of poetry to be metaphorical. Death, on the other hand, is literal.

As a poet, or someone who writes poetry, I don’t stop singing. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll eventually wear myself out and stop. Because poetry is visionary, it keeps wanting to keep going in a perpetual task of witnessing and remaking. As long as you live to see the sunrise, you have something to sing about. In our cover picture–George Tooker’s The Bathers–I see a curious glance backward by one of the bathers. It struck me that curiosity is what keeps us interested. That glance at what engages us is rather personal. The subject of interest brings us out of ourselves, and it also brings us back into ourselves. What is the world that engages your interest? A world that will ultimately pass you by.

Mark Strand in Dark Harbor seems to talk on point:

Farewell no matter what. And the palms as they lean
Over the green, bright lagoon, and the pelicans
Diving, and the glistening bodies of bathers resting,

Are stages in an ultimate stillness, and the movement
Of sand, and of wind, and the secret moves of the body
Are part of the same, a simplicity that turns being

Into an occasion for mourning, or into an occasion
Worth celebrating, for what else does one do.

(Canto XVI)

The title of our issue borrows from the title of Walt Whitman’s famous poem. It is a poem that celebrates the present (“There was never any more inception than there is now,/Nor any more youth or age than there is now,/And will never be any more perfection than there is now,/Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.”), is optimistic about life and death both (“All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,/And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”), believes in the divinity of self (“Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from,/The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,/This head more than churches, bibles, and all the creeds.”), is multitudinous (“I am large, I contain multitudes”) and channels many voices (“Through me many long dumb voices”).

What is his song about? It is his poetic bid for immortality, like that of Wordsworth’s, but done in an inclusive, capacious manner, sensory, visceral, philosophic, written in free verse. It is, of course, a self-elegy. Such an elegy seeks to preserve the meaning of one’s life as something of positive value when that life itself has ceased. It does this by much cataloguing and weaving of different strands into one (“And of these one and all I weave the song of myself.”)

So that is to be the theme of our issue. The self, I shall leave to you to interpret in your own unique ways. What would the self say? Say over and over again. Say differently and the same. What stories? What thoughts? Is there more than one self, so you could possibly be many selves? What are these other selves? Is it a self that will help channel other voices? Does self exist only in the text? What, indeed, is the self? Does your poem carry a clear sense of identity? Does it reflect and celebrate many selves or your true self? Does the self become transcendent? Does it aspire to the mythic?

Perhaps, after you’ve pinned it down, you’d think, like Mark Strand in The Monument:

First silence, then some humming,
then more silence, then nothing
then more nothing, then silence,
then more silence, then nothing.

Song of My Other Self: There is no other self.
The Wind’s Song: Get out of my way.
The Sky’s Song: You’re less than a cloud.
The Tree’s Song: You’re less than a leaf.
The Sea’s Song: You’re a wave, less than a wave.
The Sun’s Song: You’re the moon’s child.
The Moon’s Song: You’re no child of mine.

(Section 35)

That’s so funny. What would you sing about?

I’ll leave you with W S Merwin’s excellent poem, “The Laughing Thrush”:

O nameless joy of the morning

tumbling upward note by note out of the night
and the hush of the dark valley
and out of whatever has not been there

song unquestioning and unbounded
yes this is the place and the one time
in the whole of before and after
with all of memory waking into it
and the lost visages that hover
around the edge of sleep
constant and clear

and the words that lately have fallen silent
to surface among the phrases of some future
if there is a future

here is where they all sing the first daylight
whether or not there is anyone listening

***

Interpret the theme however you wish. Submit poems to us by email here.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE IS 28 AUGUST 2016. SUBMISSIONS OPEN.

Please review the submission guidelines and then send us your poems in the body of an email.

Poems will be published in ongoing posts on this site. Each posting will be announced on the Red Wolf Journal page on Facebook. Your poem may be published at any time from March to August 2016 so please check back here. If you do not see your poem(s) appear, you may deem it as not accepted for publication. We will not be sending out any acceptance or rejection letters.

The entire collection will be released in PDF format in due course. An announcement will be made at that point.

Regards,
Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Spring/Summer 2016 Editors

Inward Nobility, by Edilson Afonso Ferreira

Inward Nobility
by Edilson Afonso Ferreira

I cannot accept the sacred and solemn
as private of the Popes and Bishops,
Kings and Judges.
On the various facets of daily life,
in the streets, avenues and alleys,
houses and hovels, by
        hugging a friend long not seen,
        returning an unexpected smile,
        giving a hand to the child and
        listening to an elderly,
        stopping to hear the birds
        and the buzzing of the bees,
        admiring the beauty of the horizons
        and the flowers of the gardens, and,
        for the exasperation of all the demons,
        making love, not war;
there is genuine a solemnity,
also grandeur and nobility, as
at the cathedrals, palaces and courts.
And so we go easily moving
heavy and hard wheels of time,
towards uncertain and unknown days.

Mr. Ferreira is a Brazilian poet who writes in English rather than Portuguese. Recent works have appeared in Red Wolf Journal, Right Hand Pointing, Creative Talents Unleashed (Featured Poet), Indiana Voice Journal, The Lake, Young Ravens, Whispers, Every Day Poems, Dead Snakes, The Basil O’Flaherty (Featured Poet), among others. Ferreira lives in a small town with wife, three sons and a granddaughter and, unhurried, is collecting his works for a forthcoming book. He began to write at age 63 (nine years ago), after retirement as a Bank Manager.

Song In Minor Key, by Debi Swim

Song in Minor Key
by Debi Swim

You ask for a song to sum up a life,
song of me, as though I should know
these words and melody not writ down
nor scored on staff paper.
I do not know myself.
Are there those
who can proclaim with assurance
This is me. I am thus and thus, page by page
I can account the totality of I am?

Some days I’m nice, some days I’m not
I’ve been unsure, sure, cocksure
brilliant, stupid, average
and if I say
I am a Christian
born under Cancer
a female

what does that explain
about the me you want me
to sing about?
You’ve waited too late
to ask for my song.
There was a time I loved to talk of me
now it is a most boring thing
to dwell on , and I am tired
of the subject.
But, if you’d like we could
talk all night of William Carlos Williams
or Emily Dickinson or Billy Collins
or Billy the Kid.

 

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 191.

 

Debi Swim writes primarily to prompts. She is a wife, mother, grandmother and WV poet.

Bad Days, by Kathleen Kimball-Baker

Bad Days
by Kathleen Kimball-Baker

When I open my mouth to speak
I talk in tears, so I’d rather
not talk much these days.

When I try to think how
to solve a problem, my head
cracks into pain, so I try not to think.

What has replaced thinking
is feeling. I have Feelings.
Big ones that suck all the air
out of a room, that want to
go on parade and slam cymbals,
wave pom-poms, and step high.

Between the tears, the headaches,
and the Big Feelings, the me
I like is buried and can’t dig out.

So I leave the words alone,
let the tears tantrum
into exhaustion, scoop away
all thought, and set the whole
wretched lot outside my
bedroom while I sleep the
base sleep of a concussive.

And here’s the hope that trills
in my heart: that all this
nastiness
will get bored
and slink away into the shadows.

 

Process notes: July 2016 marks 6 months since my head crash-landed on an icy sidewalk while walking my dogs. It’s been a roller-coaster recovery, moments of feeling almost normal, followed by deep lows where my usual sunniness abandons me. I started reading a book yesterday called The Ghost in My Brain: How A Concussion Stole My Life And How The New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get It Back by Clark Elliott, PhD, an artificial intelligence researcher. It brought back a lot of the awful horrible fragile vulnerable feelings, so I think I’ll skip his story and go straight to plasticity! And then maybe I can write something not quite so dark.

 

Kathleen Kimball-Baker is a writer, editor, and public health analyst in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is a three-time finalist in the Loft Literary Mentorship Competition, twice for fiction, and once for creative nonfiction; in 2012, her essay about becoming a dog sledder won an honorary mention from the Loft for creative nonfiction. Although she found poetry baffling for decades, something finally clicked and it is now her lens on life. Her poetry blog: In Linden Hills.

I Dream in Fragments, by A.J. Huffman

I Dream in Fragments
by A.J. Huffman

of broken
mirrors
that never showed
anyone any type
of chance.
I weave myself
around their edges,
too carefully.
I cut myself every time.
Pieces of me
mingle with their jagged air
until I am breathing
nothing
but my own
dissolution.

A.J. Huffman has published thirteen full-length poetry collections, fourteen solo poetry chapbooks and one joint poetry chapbook through various small presses. Her most recent releases, Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink), A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press), and Familiar Illusions (Flutter Press) are now available from their respective publishers. She is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2500 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, The Bookends Review, Bone Orchard, Corvus Review, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. http://www.kindofahurricanepress.com.

I Am Fingers, by A.J. Huffman

I Am Fingers
by A.J. Huffman

crossed, symbolic
motion of desperation,
of a hand in need
of something, anything
real(ly). I am empty
prayer, hollow words
spoken with little hope
and even less belief.
I am bare(ly) going
through the ritualistic motions
that promise nothing but
another waking into another
desperate tomorrow.

A.J. Huffman has published thirteen full-length poetry collections, fourteen solo poetry chapbooks and one joint poetry chapbook through various small presses. Her most recent releases, Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink), A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press), and Familiar Illusions (Flutter Press) are now available from their respective publishers. She is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2500 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, The Bookends Review, Bone Orchard, Corvus Review, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. http://www.kindofahurricanepress.com.

The Man with the Pierced Tongue, by A.J. Huffman

The Man with the Pierced Tongue
by A.J. Huffman

and receding hairline fixed my car, and I
suddenly felt more secure in my decision
to dye the ends of my hair aqua. At 42,
iterating such intentions draws caustic tsks
from friends and family who do not understand
my lack of connection with that number
or my outright refusal to let it sway me
from my desire to do things that, however strange,
make me feel more like me.

 

A.J. Huffman has published thirteen full-length poetry collections, fourteen solo poetry chapbooks and one joint poetry chapbook through various small presses. Her most recent releases, Degeneration (Pink Girl Ink), A Bizarre Burning of Bees (Transcendent Zero Press), and Familiar Illusions (Flutter Press) are now available from their respective publishers. She is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a two-time Best of Net nominee, and has published over 2500 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, The Bookends Review, Bone Orchard, Corvus Review, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. http://www.kindofahurricanepress.com.

Chance, by Pat Anthony

Chance
by Pat Anthony

You gamble on good days,
throw the dice at a five o’clock
moon on the off chance that the
sixty minute drive northbound
will be free of the antlered ones,
their belly heavy mates swaying
from late beds to early breakfasts.

You wager on having just enough to get by,
the low side of fierce when you drag
armor and its weight drags at your very being.

Like seeing the hulk of the 1906 piano
minus keys, minus its damper assembly,
minus the music and you miss your soul.

You wonder about the slick fixer in the art
city by the river who will rewrap each hammer
and has conned you into believing that the
songs lie deep within the mahogany and not
the curling scraps around his feet.

After the day’s dealers go home, you gather
your take and the bag is heavy: the moon long
down, the fox settled into her den in the middle
pasture below the massive cedar. You listen
to the wind through its blue berried arms and
know for sure that what you hear tonight is true
music, the soughing notes all you need.

Process: Exploring whether to rebuild the old piano and being without it drove this poem, needing to search out the music that surrounds us.

Pat Anthony is a just retired Special Education teacher, writing from the heartland where she lives in the country. A lifelong poet, she writes daily, tries to edit faithfully, but enjoys the process of painting with words above all.

middlecreekcurrents.com

Outside the City Limits, by Pat Anthony

Outside the City Limits
by Pat Anthony

Hollyhocks grew at the end
of the clotheslines. Rocketed past
silver posts to sway above singing
steel ribbons and lure the risk taker
with saucer shaped blooms, stamens
laden with pollen and swollen
bumble bees. Escaping the steamy
house, she came and watched
them tumbling around like laundry
in the old Maytag. Looked for an
opening and slowly cupped
her hand behind a bloom,
steadied her breath, slid her fingers
forward and shut the glistening blossom,
deftly twisted the petals, snapped the
stem and launched the tiny missile
skyward. Like pastel parachutes they
fluttered open, bees winging toward
the eastern meadows, spent flowers
like deflated balloons. No one ever
questioned how she spent her time,
and bees don’t tell.

Process
Childhood experience. Besides my brothers, no one ever knew about his game, nor did it occur to me I might get stung. It was a celebration of morning sun, busy bees, and possibility.

Pat Anthony is a just retired Special Education teacher, writing from the heartland where she lives in the country. A lifelong poet, she writes daily, tries to edit faithfully, but enjoys the process of painting with words above all.

middlecreekcurrents.com

Voices, by Pat Anthony

Voices
by Pat Anthony

Friday, and she calls from a dark place,
says how she fears weekends with their
various demands, two days without the
structure of nine to five. I listen but

notice how in the far distance the black
silhouette of what surely must be a
swallowtail butterfly departs from the
Rose of Sharon, how dark things lift off

and take wing if we let them go about
their business. I ask if she’s making any
more scarves for the homeless camp and
she says yes, she’s finally sorted it out,

those tangled skeins, yarn. Thinks
she may have an idea or two. In her
silence I see the tortoiseshell cat by
the cantaloupe flats making her own fun.

Let the querulous voice inside my head go
still, yield to our mutual goodbyes and decide
to count butterflies on the sweet spire, rush
to save the garter snake from the kitten.

Process: As a writer living with bipolar disorder, I find life presents with multiple choices. This was a concrete example.

Pat Anthony is a just retired Special Education teacher, writing from the heartland where she lives in the country. A lifelong poet, she writes daily, tries to edit faithfully, but enjoys the process of painting with words above all.

middlecreekcurrents.com

Edgar Degas Speaks His Mind, by Christopher Hileman

Breakfast-after-the-Bath-II

Edgar Degas, Breakfast After The Bath II

 

Edgar Degas Speaks His Mind
by Christopher Hileman

My friends drop away
but I prefer solitude
and I so complain
and help them depart.

I have too much work to do.

And besides that, Jews,
they keep secrets so
I cannot tell who is who.

You call me to head
your movement… they write
in the stupid magazines.
Impressionistic
they call my art – No!
I resist this bastard word!
To Hell with you all!

 

Note: Written in response to Red Wolf Poems, Prompt 164.

Christopher Hileman moved to Oregon in 1973. He has retired to live on the volcanic bluff overlooking Willamette Falls in Oregon City, Oregon. He ascends the stairs from his basement digs to improvise on his Yamaha keyboard or the house Playel grand when the calico cat releases him from below. The part-Irish Wolfhound here likes him.