All posts by Guest Blogger


Moon as Muse

(Photo by Paul Hart via Flickr/CC)


By Lisa Russ Spaar

Is there a subject more often evoked in poetry than our earth’s own natural satellite?  The earliest poems in a host of languages—Greek, Chinese, Tamil,  Hebrew, Arabic, to name but a few—include lunar references, images, tropes, confessions, curses, and appeals.

Scientists think the cratered mass of cosmic debris includes earth matter sent into orbit along with other planetary stuff in a seminal terrestrial collision. Cycling around our gl…


Eating the Days: Thoughts on Off-Line Learning at UVa

By Lisa Russ Spaar

On Monday, June 11, 2012, I gathered with a group of undergraduates for the first meeting of my summer session creative writing workshop here at the University of Virginia, where I have taught in the Department of English since 1993.  I teach in the summers as well as during the regular academic term not only because I can’t otherwise make ends meet on my 9-month faculty salary but also because I enjoy meeting students at time when classes are both more intense (summer sess…


Poets in the Print Shop

By Lisa Russ Spaar

Several years ago a colleague in the studio art department and I team-taught a course we called “The Matrix,” an experiment in bringing together eight advanced printmaking students and eight advanced poets to make new work, including several high and low-end collective books. A matrix, in the printmaking lexicon, refers to the plate—zinc, plate, copper—or other material (stone, collage) used in printing, but when we advertised the course we had a lot of interest from initi…


Monday’s Poem: ‘Provincial Thought,’ by Maurice Manning


We get things in our head, a sort
of wonder I suppose, a notion,
about where to stand on the hill to see
the white blur of a steeple eight
or maybe ten miles away
at the center of a country town
whose school has been consolidated,
and the little country store, where news
and gossip spread around and maybe
a local discovery was claimed
by one of the loafers there, is closed.
Going to find that spot on the hill
in order to see from a certain prospect
a world far enough away it seems
a symbol is…


Monday’s Poem: ‘Birds Without Glasses,’ by Barbara Maloutas



she says their names to hear them
out loud Wildwood Margate Avalon
Ocean City Stone Harbor Cape May

her passing pine barrens   down to the shore

softly stench overtakes in still bays
digging for clams in bare feet a wiggle
a collector of shells licking driftwood

her tongue becomes   is more than bare

in Cape May catching a one way
on that mosquito mound its winding through
sanctuary for sea birds small feathers

she doesn’t learn a thing   birds without glasses

honeymooners on leave for a …


Monday’s Poem: ‘After the Angelectomy,’ by Alice Fulton



And where my organ of veneration should be—
wormwood and gall. Grudge sliver.

Wailbone, iron, bitters. I mean to say the miniature
waterfalls have all dried up in this miniature

place where day is duty cubed, time is time on task
and every mind optimized for compliance.

Time to delint my black denim traveling stuff.
The florescent major highlighter has dimmed

to minor. I’m so dying I wrote
when I meant to write so tired.

And when I sleep I dream only that
I’m sleeping. Please see my black…


Faculty Respond to Riley Post on African-American Studies

We, the African-American-studies faculty at Northwestern University, reject the amateurish attack by Ms. Riley on our graduate students, and, by extension, on the black-studies academic enterprise, including those in other disciplines who contribute to black-studies scholarship.  We stand in defense of academic freedom that promotes inquiry into the wide range of human experiences, political perspectives, and policy histories.

To write such disparaging comments about young scholars and their exp…


Grad Students Respond to Riley Post on African-American Studies

As graduate students in Northwestern University’s department of African-American studies, we were thrilled with the informative and important article by Stacey Patton for The Chronicle of Higher Education that looked at the state of our discipline through the lens of an important academic conference bringing together the 11 African-American studies doctoral programs together for the first time.

So imagine our surprise when almost two weeks after The Chronicle’s original article appeared, The Chr…


Monday’s Poems: From ‘The Brother Sonnets,’ by James Hoch

From “The Brother Sonnets”

3) Mythology

Cursed, first, cocked stink-eyed against
the wall of mother’s pelvis, he was born

hoofed, lion-headed, lizard-clawed,
wielding a wicked brush-back that felt like

something greater than it was. Greek
once, drab light, drabber tile, towel-wrapped

waist, I almost slayed him, a wild right
neither the gods nor I believed, caught him

looking mortal, unlike him. And unlike
me, radiant, I saw what it was, and just

as quick made him back into myth.
For this, if we…


Monday’s Poem: ‘As Authors Can’t Perfect One Agent,’ by Heather McHugh


First . . .


As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put beside his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart;
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love’s rite,
And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay,
O’ercharg’d with burthen of mine own love’s might.
O! let my books be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love, and look f…


Monday’s Poem: ‘Unsung Song,’ by Elizabeth Spires

The world changed.
Books disappeared, replaced
by glowing screens.
Poems that mattered once
were gently laid to rest.
Once, the summer was
the summer, the fall the fall.
Outside, cars sat quietly at the curb,
puffy like soft sculptures,
or finned like giant fish.
Mornings, afternoons,
a boy on a bicycle delivered
news of the world.
Then suddenly it all ended.
There was only the present
looping continuously on a screen,
but you couldn’t make sense of it.

Outside people still jogged,
walked their…


Dementia’s Commonplace Book

(from Flickr/CC)


By Lisa Russ Spaar

Jonathan Swift, who would in later life suffer from dementia, was keen on the importance of keeping a “commonplace book” in which a person might record insights, overheard bits, observations, excerpts from reading—a personal magpie anthology of things one does not want consigned to forgetfulness or oblivion.

Swift writes:  “A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that ‘great wits have short me…


Monday’s Poems: 2 by Amy Newman


While Sylvia Plath Studies The Joy of Cooking On Her Honeymoon In Benidorm, Spain, Delmore Schwartz Reclines In The Front Seat Of His Buick Roadmaster

While Sylvia Plath studies The Joy of Cooking on her honeymoon in Benidorm, Spain,
Delmore Schwartz reclines in the front seat of his Buick Roadmaster
listening to a Giants game on the car radio.
The car’s parked on his farmland in Baptistown,
New Jersey, where obstinate plants attempt survival
at great odds, their vital spikes insulting an…


Monday’s Poems: 2 by Michael Rutherglen

Went Viral

It was for you
alone I wrote the song
I sang into the screen and sent
to you alone, that someone else
then saw and sent among
their friends, their friends among
still others still beyond
me, omphalos node
of a lopsided system—
new lines of transmission
bloomed askew from spreading hubs—forgotten, though
each watched me sing as if to him or her

of you, your amor fati, face
across an asymptotic gap
in time awaiting our arriving late
by planes delayed by planes delayed,
your glance’…


Monday’s Poem: ‘March,’ by Laura Kasischke


It’s the murderer
who got away with it
sitting on a park bench
thinking about snow

and how it’s over.  Little
flower-faces peeking
out of dirt
to shriek hello.  While

the babies wheel
by, absurdly bright.  The old
men in amber.  The light
on the steeples served up
in cones of white.

But something here
is not quite right:

Old lady
in a little girl’s bonnet.
Ugly dog
with a child’s wide smile.

Always, in spring
you’ll find
someone with regrets
she’s allowed herself
to forget:

Eye at the keyhole…


Is Everyone a Writer?

Sure, go ahead and write that novel, if it keeps you from becoming a dull boy. But Elise Blackwell's still not going to invite you to sit in on her graduate workshop. (From "The Shining")

By Elise Blackwell

The only aspect of my job as an MFA director and creative writing professor that I dislike—aside from those “and then I woke up” stories freshmen sometimes write—is gatekeeping. Sometimes it feels like barring a door I’d rather open. The most painful no’s are those to the talented…


Monday’s Poem: ‘Suicide Cascade,’ by Joy Katz

The saddest time in my life was also the time the most people said, you look beautiful.
There was a poet I would meet for coffee, he was married,
he wanted to know would I have an affair, would I, what was I doing,
he eyed my well-turned runner’s legs

There was a poet who killed herself

The last time I saw her she made a wide generous gesture, arms outswept,
in a room where people stood strapping tape on cartons full of books.

“Four dollars,” said the poet, swung
her arms as if she were walking…


Monday’s Poems: ‘Stutterer’ and ‘The Prayer Rope Knot,’ by William Thompson




Trained never to forget the all
-importance of control, his face
remembers always to suppress
each unintended syllable

and can’t.  Hence the expressionless
expression he maintains, a dead
-pan scowl where umbrage shadows rage.
He hurts.  It is his privilege,

or was:  the ones who mocked or stared
grew into people of good will
who, patient, notice nothing as
the hard words flare and sting his eyes.



The Prayer Rope Knot

Each time the monk who learned this knot
had tied his own, …


Monday’s Poem: ‘The Date,’ by Monica Ferrell

This time we’ll come gloved & blind-
folded, we’ll arrive on time.

With bees in our hair,
with an escort of expiring swans.

We’ll appear to out-of-date & out-of-tune
violin music, we’ll lie on our side.

Wearing rotting lotus behind our ears,
musk between our thighs.

This time we’ll be tied down.
We’ll cry out.

We’ll only smoke if surprised
by tragedy’s approach, as it noses closer.

This time we’ll fall in love
with the blood color

of the sunset as we’re walking home
over the bridge that takes u…




By Lisa Russ Spaar


Anticipating winter, Rainer Maria Rilke begins the last stanza of his autumn poem “Herbstag” this way:

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lessen, lange Briefe schrieben . . .


(Whoever now has no house, by now will not build.
Whoever is alone now will stay alone,
will wait up, read, write long letters . . . )

Gaston Bachelard, who calls winter the “oldest of the seasons,” writes in The Poetics of …