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Lois Levinson

In Darkness

Migrating birds
cross the disc
of the full moon,
silhouettes flitting
on a white screen,
like moths caught
in a searchlight beam.

But a moonsworth
is only a fragment of sky,
the visible just an inkling
of all that moves
in darkness.

Coyote, venerable dignitary
of the country of night,
swaggers past me
on his nightly patrol.

A family of mule deer,
antlers moon-silvered,
browses on dried grasses,
the old buck
keeping an eye
on the interloper.

A great horned owl
looms high
in the scaffolding
of a dead cottonwood,
scrutinizing all.

What I know is of little use here.
Furless and featherless,
I’ve forgotten the nocturnal
language of shadows,
the song of bare branches
as they fracture the moon.


Editor’s Notes:

The rich imagery of the dark nights and the moon fills this poem with a melancholy tone, and the last stanza cinches all those images into the futility of human knowledge. The assonance in almost every stanza is captivating.


Lois Levinson is the author of one book of poems, Before It All Vanishes, and a chapbook, Crane Dance, both published by Finishing Line Press.  Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Canary Journal, Global PoemicGyroscopeThe Carolina Quarterly, The MacGuffin, Cloudbank and other journals. She lives in Denver, Colorado where she is quarantining, birding and working on her second book.

Miriam O’Neal

Remembering Liam

“He was just walking with time as wind does with the air, in and away.” Ankit Shah

He was just walking with time as wind does
was walking as wind does with time,
just with the air in deep and away,
walking
with walking, he was just air
time, wind does as he does
as with wind the air does walking,
wind was walking, just as time does,
does he walk with the air away,
with wind in deep and
the time was just as he was
air with wind with away
and in. He was time he was air he was walking
deep and away.

in memory of poet and essayist, Liam Rector (1949-2007)


Editor’s Notes: The nature of memory is persistent, and yet memory is ever-changing and fleeting as air and time. The repetition and alternating and transposing of the terms wind, air, and time symbolize this.


Miriam O’Neal’s, The Body Dialogues was published by Lily Poetry Review Books in January, 2020. We Start With What We’re Given (Kelsay Books) came out in 2018. Runner-up for the 2020 Princemere Prize, O’Neal is a 2019 Pushcart nominee and a Poet of Note in the Disquiet International Poetry competition. Recent work has appeared in Nixes Mate Review, North Dakota Quarterly.  Translations of Italian poet, Alda Merini, appeared in On The Seawall  in Fall 2019.

Turning Over the New Leaf

The Literary Nest will turn 6 in 2021. In the past six years, we have published some great poetry and also fiction. Except for a handful of initial pieces, every poem and story published here came from unsolicited submissions. I am so grateful for the poets, writers, and a few visual artists who trusted us with their precious words and images. To keep up with the changing needs of the submitters and our scarce staff, I propose a new journal model.

Beginning in January, the journal will provide almost instant gratification to the poets. The outline of how it will work follows.

  1. The submissions will be open all through the year.
  2. If a poem is accepted, we will post it online immediately.
  3. If your poem doesn’t appear online within a month, please consider it as rejected.
  4. We will not send out formal acceptance or rejection.
  5. At the end of the quarter, the journal will announce the publication of the quarterly issue.
  6. We may hold occasional contests, and each contest will have separate guidelines posted if and when we hold a contest.

The primary motivation behind this policy is that I don’t particularly appreciate sending rejection letters. It is excruciating for me to write one. As a poet, I am also on the receiving end of such letters, and no matter how polite of encouraging it is or how valid the reasoning behind it, it is still a rejection, and there is no way to sugarcoat it.

This new model will be good for the readers as there will be ongoing fresh content and suitable for the poets as they will get a quick turnaround for their submissions.

Feel free to send your feedback either in the email or in the comments below.

Stay tuned for the regular winter issue coming out on December 30th.

100 Thousand Poets for Change Reading

The reading and an open mic for poets for change.  If you have a poem about positive social change that you would like to share with the world, join us for this reading.

What: Open Poetry Reading
Who: Poets and Poetry Lovers
Why: We care about building a better society by effecting positive social change.
When: Wednesday, September 23, 2 PM (PDT)
Where: online via zoom (RSVP appreciated – theliterarynest@gmail.com)
Topic: 100TPC Reading
Time: Sep 23, 2020 02:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
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Meeting ID: 883 9504 2137
Passcode: 394304
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Theme and poetic forms for Fall Issue – Fire

Dear Poets,

This post will guide you to navigate the submission guidelines for the fall 2020 issue. The theme for the fall issue is ‘fire.’ As always, you are free to interpret the theme the way you seem fit. Fire can be an actual fire, emotional rage, an idea that catches fire, and so on. Just let your imagination guide you.

About the forms that we are looking for this issue are,
Pantoum
Bop
Villanelle
Golden Shovel
Ballad

Check out the blog articles about these forms on this site and are linked above.  Happy writing and submitting.

 

Golden Shovel

The Golden Shovel is a poetic form invented by the poet Terrance Hayes. The last words of each line in a Golden Shovel poem are, in order, words from a line or lines taken from a Gwendolyn Brooks poem, “The Pool Players. Seven at the Golden Shovel” widely known as “We Real Cool.”  Read the “Golden Shovel” by Terrance Hayes.

Read a little more on the form here.

Taking inspiration from this, several poets use some other short poems such as “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams as the basis. Another short poem “Dust of Snow” by Robert Frost can be used as a basis also. Or you can choose the one that you like.  Although, strictly speaking, the original and authentic Golden Shovel is written in honor of Gwendolyn Brook’s poem mentioned above.

Good luck writing and submitting.

 

 

Ballad Form

Here is a quick cheat sheet on ballads for those of you who are thinking of writing and submitting a ballad poem.

A ballad is usually a narrative poem with a song-like quality.

The ballad meter consists of lines with iambic tetrameter and trimeter. Usually, the poem consists of four-line stanzas with abcb rhyme scheme. Loosely speaking, the first and third lines of a stanza have four accented syllables and the second and fourth lines have three. In other words, the quatrains with four stresses in the first and third lines and three stresses in second and fourth lines with an abcb or abab rhyme scheme.

Some well-known ballad poems are “La Belle Dame sans Merci” by John Keats and “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe.

Here are two of my favorite ballads. Notice the deviations from the strict formal structure at the hands of the skilled poets.

The Haunted Oak
By Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

Pray why are you so bare, so bare,
Oh, bough of the old oak-tree;
And why, when I go through the shade you throw,
Runs a shudder over me?

My leaves were green as the best, I trow,
And sap ran free in my veins,
But I saw in the moonlight dim and weird
A guiltless victim’s pains.

I bent me down to hear his sigh;
I shook with his gurgling moan,
And I trembled sore when they rode away,
And left him here alone.

They’d charged him with the old, old crime,
And set him fast in jail:
Oh, why does the dog howl all night long,
And why does the night wind wail?

He prayed his prayer and he swore his oath,
And he raised his hand to the sky;
But the beat of hoofs smote on his ear,
And the steady tread drew nigh.

Who is it rides by night, by night,
Over the moonlit road?
And what is the spur that keeps the pace,
What is the galling goad?

And now they beat at the prison door,
“Ho, keeper, do not stay!
We are friends of him whom you hold within,
And we fain would take him away

“From those who ride fast on our heels
With mind to do him wrong;
They have no care for his innocence,
And the rope they bear is long.”

They have fooled the jailer with lying words,
They have fooled the man with lies;
The bolts unbar, the locks are drawn,
And the great door open flies.

Now they have taken him from the jail,
And hard and fast they ride,
And the leader laughs low down in his throat,
As they halt my trunk beside.

Oh, the judge, he wore a mask of black,
And the doctor one of white,
And the minister, with his oldest son,
Was curiously bedight.

Oh, foolish man, why weep you now?
‘Tis but a little space,
And the time will come when these shall dread
The mem’ry of your face.

I feel the rope against my bark,
And the weight of him in my grain,
I feel in the throe of his final woe
The touch of my own last pain.

And never more shall leaves come forth
On the bough that bears the ban;
I am burned with dread, I am dried and dead,
From the curse of a guiltless man.

And ever the judge rides by, rides by,
And goes to hunt the deer,
And ever another rides his soul
In the guise of a mortal fear.

And ever the man he rides me hard,
And never a night stays he;
For I feel his curse as a haunted bough,
On the trunk of a haunted tree

(This poem is in the public domain.)

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver
by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

“Son,” said my mother,
When I was knee-high,
“You’ve need of clothes to cover you,
And not a rag have I.

“There’s nothing in the house
To make a boy breeches,
Nor shears to cut a cloth with
Nor thread to take stitches.

“There’s nothing in the house
But a loaf-end of rye,
And a harp with a woman’s head
Nobody will buy,”
And she began to cry.

That was in the early fall.
When came the late fall,
“Son,” she said, “the sight of you
Makes your mother’s blood crawl,—

“Little skinny shoulder-blades
Sticking through your clothes!
And where you’ll get a jacket from
God above knows.

“It’s lucky for me, lad,
Your daddy’s in the ground,
And can’t see the way I let
His son go around!”
And she made a queer sound.

That was in the late fall.
When the winter came,
I’d not a pair of breeches
Nor a shirt to my name.

I couldn’t go to school,
Or out of doors to play.
And all the other little boys
Passed our way.

“Son,” said my mother,
“Come, climb into my lap,
And I’ll chafe your little bones
While you take a nap.”

And, oh, but we were silly
For half an hour or more,
Me with my long legs
Dragging on the floor,

A-rock-rock-rocking
To a mother-goose rhyme!
Oh, but we were happy
For half an hour’s time!

But there was I, a great boy,
And what would folks say
To hear my mother singing me
To sleep all day,
In such a daft way?

Men say the winter
Was bad that year;
Fuel was scarce,
And food was dear.

A wind with a wolf’s head
Howled about our door,
And we burned up the chairs
And sat upon the floor.

All that was left us
Was a chair we couldn’t break,
And the harp with a woman’s head
Nobody would take,
For song or pity’s sake.

The night before Christmas
I cried with the cold,
I cried myself to sleep
Like a two-year-old.

And in the deep night
I felt my mother rise,
And stare down upon me
With love in her eyes.

I saw my mother sitting
On the one good chair,
A light falling on her
From I couldn’t tell where,

Looking nineteen,
And not a day older,
And the harp with a woman’s head
Leaned against her shoulder.

Her thin fingers, moving
In the thin, tall strings,
Were weav-weav-weaving
Wonderful things.

Many bright threads,
From where I couldn’t see,
Were running through the harp-strings
Rapidly,

And gold threads whistling
Through my mother’s hand.
I saw the web grow,
And the pattern expand.

She wove a child’s jacket,
And when it was done
She laid it on the floor
And wove another one.

She wove a red cloak
So regal to see,
“She’s made it for a king’s son,”
I said, “and not for me.”
But I knew it was for me.

She wove a pair of breeches
Quicker than that!
She wove a pair of boots
And a little cocked hat.

She wove a pair of mittens,
She wove a little blouse,
She wove all night
In the still, cold house.

She sang as she worked,
And the harp-strings spoke;
Her voice never faltered,
And the thread never broke.
And when I awoke,—

There sat my mother
With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
And not a day older,

A smile about her lips,
And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
Frozen dead.

And piled up beside her
And toppling to the skies,
Were the clothes of a king’s son,
Just my size.

(This poem is in the public domain.)

Notes on the Sonnet form

We are reading poems in Sonnet form for our summer issue. So far, many submissions seem to echo or mimic Shakespeare in his archaic form. The definitions offered on the submissions page are the basic definitions, but in the hands of a skilled poet, the form can be altered somewhat. We are looking for artistry more than the rigid adherence to the form. That’s not to say the abandon all the rules, but to say that learn the rules so well that you can bend them to suit the needs of the poem. I offer you an article by Annie Finch, “Chaos in Fourteen Lines,” and a few sonnets that can help you in creating your sonnets. This article by Annie Finch cites several modern sonnets. Please, pay careful attention to creating a powerful “volta” in your sonnet.

The one modern sonnet that I would like for you to read isn’t available online and is copyrighted. It is “Therapy” by Kim Addonizio from her poetry collection Tell Me.

In this journal, we prefer poems that technically skilled yet are accessible to a broad audience. Personally, I prefer poetry that resonates emotionally yet retains a logical coherence. In the end, an average reader wants to connect to your poem, and it’s not likely to happen if the poem is obscure. So, clarity of expression is critical. Since the internet is an open medium, I want the poem to reach some isolated soul in a distant land to read your poem and connect with it, be comforted by it, and be inspired by it.

Having said all that, I want to emphasize that we are looking for a variety of styles and themes including traditional style. This post is here to let you know that there are options besides the common styles and themes. Here are the guidelines for submissions.

If We Must Die
— Claude McKay

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

Remember
–Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Prompt April 30 2020

Here we are at the end of April. Today is the last day of this National Poetry Month challenge. I hope you have enjoyed these prompts and had as much fun writing poems as I had creating them.

I will keep it simple today. Write a good-bye poem with an optimistic outlook.

Just a reminder about submissions. The summer issue will feature sonnets. Check out the submission guidelines, consider submitting, and spread the word.

As usual, you can post your poem here if you like. You will need a password. Write to theliterarynest@gmail.com if you need the password.