Patricia’s Pen is delighted to welcome poet, Karen Pierce Gonzalez as she celebrates the launch of her poetry pamphlet Coyote in the Basket of My Ribs published by Kelsay Books.
Coyote In the Basket of My Ribs
Karen Pierce Gonzalez
Coyote in the Basket of My Ribs was inspired by a long-held kinship I have with Coyote. Not the trickster most people think of, but the mythic messenger who travels between life and death with seamless ease. Little did I know that, as the collection came together, she would guide by example as I unearthed again regions of my own very difficult life/death terrain.
The loss of my sister Fortunee when we were children was one of those canyons. Her death, unfortunately, occurred in a car accident as she and my mother were driving to the store to get something for me. The many facets of this loss have stayed with me as has Coyote who knows the borders between ‘here’ and ‘there’ are as muted as the veils between light and shadow.
It was the Coyote Dream sequences (often emerging from meditative journeys) that wove together my fragmented sister/family memories. And it was Coyote who sometimes fiercely, sometimes gently taught me how to hold what I love by letting it go so that I could live.
Signed copies and Northern California bird feather as bookmark are also available by contacting Karen directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Karen Pierce Gonzalez
Karen Pierce Gonzalez’s writing credits include True North (Origami Poems Project 2022), Coyote in the Basket of My Ribs (Alabaster Leaves Press/Kelsay Books 2023), Down River with Li Po (Black Cat Poetry Press 2024). Her poetry, fiction and non-fiction (including journalism and folklore) have appeared in local, national, and international radio shows, publications and podcasts, and her short plays have been staged at local fringe festivals. She has earned several awards (California Writers Association, San Francisco Pen, Redwood Writers, etc.) and has been nominated for Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. A National Arts Program featured artist, her 3D assemblage art has shown in several west coast galleries and has appeared in several literary magazines.
Patricia’s Pen is delighted to welcome poet, Sarah Connor as she celebrates the launch of her pamphlet The CrowGods published bySidhe Press. Without further ado, it’s over to Sarah.
The Crow Gods
When I was planning how to arrange the poems in my chapbook, The Crow Gods, my editor – Annick Yerem from Sidhe Press – pointed out that the vast majority of them were markedly seasonal. I hadn’t really thought about that before, but once she’d said it, it made absolute sense. We played around with a few options, but in the end, that’s how we arranged them, as a seasonal cycle, pinned in place by the Celtic cross-quarter festivals – Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain. These are points in the year that have significance for me, that, yes, make sense as markers in the annual cycle. I don’t actively celebrate them, but I’m aware of them – an itchiness at the back of my soul.
Where did that awareness come from?
A few years ago, some Jehovah’s Witnesses moved to become our new neighbours. I don’t know much about their beliefs – I know Witnesses don’t allow blood transfusions, and that they don’t celebrate Christmas or birthdays. When I explained that to my daughter, she was horrified. Why would you join a religion that had fewer celebrations? Why don’t we have more? We played around with ideas for new celebrations for the rest of that car journey, and then moved on to whatever came next. Tea, probably. Homework.
A little while after that, I heard an actual druid talking on the radio about the druidic year. He pointed out that druids mark a celebration every 6 weeks. My daughter had provided the hook – I hung that fact on it, and it stuck in my head. I read a bit more, and then I was lucky enough to be offered some space at earthweal (thank you, Brendan) to explore the quarter festivals more fully.
They are my festivals – the ones that make sense – the times when the year shifts for me. January 1st is a terrible time to start a new year. Imbolc, at the start of February, when green shoots are pushing through the soil and there’s a greenish pre-bud haze developing in the hedgerows – that feels like a shift. Beltane is another shift: the start of May – everything’s bursting with life, summer’s within touching distance. Lammas, August – I can see the crops being harvested. August has a different feel to June and July – the nights are longer – that giddy summer feel shifts into something dustier, grittier. And Samhain: the clocks have changed, winter’s here. We’ll be heading home in the dark, looking for warmth and comfort. These seem like natural shifts in the year to me.
The other thing that has added to this sense of time is lockdown. Those weeks of being trapped in space. Weeks of walking the same walks, within that narrow radius. Weeks when I found myself unable to look wider and started looking deeper. A few months after we all started breathing again, I entered my own personal lockdown: chemotherapy. Eighteen months of being limited. It was hard to travel, hard to walk any distance. It was really hard to be creative. I spent a lot of time looking out of the window, or tottering a few hundred metres up the lane. It was a difficult time, I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t. It was no gift. But it did give me an opening to go deeper. When you look at the same view every day you really notice that the leaves on the crab-apple are a couple of millimetres further along than they were last week. You spot the first blossom, the first daffodil. Suddenly, there are no starlings. In a few month times, suddenly, they’ll be everywhere, clotting the telegraph lines and wheeling over the river. The rooks are carrying twigs up into the treetops. The swallows have arrived.
I suppose the value of working with somebody else is that they see things that you don’t. They can step back and see the bigger picture, the pattern in your work that you might be too close up to see. I certainly had never thought of myself as a temporal poet, the way some poets might be urban, or pastoral, or surreal. I can’t imagine having a sense of place without having a sense of time. Once you’re away from the equator, places change so much as the seasons change. A place you only know in winter can be unrecognisable in summer. I spend a lot of time in my writing exploring those changes, trying to capture the feel of a season. I write to capture emotions and sensations, and for me they are utterly bound to the moment, the time in which they happened.
About Sarah Connor
Sarah Connor was brought up in South Yorkshire and now lives in North Devon. She spent her working life as a Child Psychiatrist. She has two adult children and one husband.
Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, and in 2012 discovered she had spread to her lungs and bones. She originally started blogging as a way of exploring her feelings about her diagnosis. When she began writing poetry she tried to keep these two worlds separate, but eventually realised that cancer invades everything.
Writing has enriched her life so much. She has been published in numerous publications, including Spelt magazine; The Storms; anthologies from Black Bough, Experiments in Literature and Sidhe Press. She is a regular writer of prompts at dVerse, and is still hanging about on Twitter.
I’m delighted to feature poet Matt Gilbert on Patricia’s Pen as he celebrates his brand new poetry collection Street Sailing published by the awesome Blackbough Poetry.
Thank you, Patricia for inviting me into your space to talk about my debut collection, Street Sailing published by editor Matthew M C Smith atBlackbough Poetry.
Street Sailing is the unexpected, but very exciting product of a return to poetry for me, after a long pause. I stopped writing poetry for a long time, for a number of reasons, but then towards the end of 2019, tentatively began to see if I still had any poems in me.
Turns out I had.
The majority of poems in the collection are inspired by different places and the lives and creatures – human and otherwise – encountered in them. More often than not, my settings involve the streets, parks and neighbourhoods of South East London where I live. Although several poems are set elsewhere, including my home town, Bristol.
Since I was little, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of ‘place’: what are the qualities that make somewhere distinctive, itself. Why is it the way it is? What is its history? What makes it tick?
In part, this interest was fuelled by early avid reading of supposed true ghost stories – local hauntings, folklore, myths and legends. Also, since childhood, like so many others, I’ve delighted in seeing and encountering animals, insects, trees and particularly birds. The poems in Street Sailing bring various combinations of these things together.
There can be a tendency to see ‘nature’ and ‘humanity’ as though we live in entirely separate realms, which in reality we don’t. So, a lot of my poems play with ways in which we humans, I, the poet figure – interact with other beings; from foxes, grasshoppers and goldfinches to possible supernatural entities – at home, on streets, in woods, fields, shorelines or sometimes through time.
If I had to sum up, what I’m aiming to do, I suppose I’d say I set out to explore the strangeness of the apparently everyday. The sometimes, jarring weirdness of a suburban street, or the eerie in a local park. To nick a phrase from myself in another blog, I want to find the extra in the ordinary – and steal it to put it in a poem.
Here is a sample poem from the collection.
About Matt Gilbert
Matt Gilbert is a freelance copywriter, who also writes a blog called Richly Evocative, about place, books, poetry and other distractions. He grew up in Bristol, then studied in Nottingham – which, when he arrived, he thought was ‘the North’. He was soon disabused of this notion. On graduating, he decided to try living in London for a couple of years – which have somehow become decades.
His poetry has appeared in a wide range of magazines, online journals and anthologies. In September 2022 he was Black Bough Poetry’s poet of the month as part of their Silver Branch series.
It’s a delight today to introduce poet, Sue Finch, to Patricia’s Pen. Sue has come along to tell my readers about her poetry journey. Without further ado, it’s over to Sue.
My Poetry Journey
My poetry journey began when I was chosen, aged ten, to read one of my poems at my primary school’s Harvest Festival. My mum and nan were in the audience, and I loved the fact there was a lectern and I was reading. A kind teacher rolled my sleeves up for me before I took my place!
At teacher training college I studied creative writing, and Vicki Feaver was one of my tutors. I have happy memories of creating and redrafting my poems whilst listening to Leonard Cohen before bringing them to the workshopping sessions. When I saw Vicki’s poems that I admired in print, I felt drawn to setting this as a goal for myself and imagined how wonderful it must feel to be a published poet. I wanted to set my words down for others to read.
A full-time job took me away from most of my writing until I realised that I was far from my goal of being published and was desperately missing the buzz of creating poems. I signed up for an online MA with Manchester Metropolitan University, and thoroughly enjoyed the balance and joy this brought. This led to working with Anna Saunders as a mentor with the aim of drafting a full collection. My debut collection Magnifying Glass developed and was later published by Black Eyes Publishing UK.
“Magnifying Glass focuses the lens on moments in time and carries the reader from childhood to adulthood. The title poem recalls one of Sue’s brother’s experiments in the garden with his new magnifying glass and its ability to focus sunlight to make fire. The poems are at times dark (Hare Mother reflects on a woman leaving an abusive relationship), occasionally twisted (The Red Shoes is a fairy-tale-inspired poem that begins with a meeting in a shoe shop) and often poignant (No Second Chance recounts an autobiographical moment where poor use of an axe to chop wood has unfortunate consequences). The final poem, Graphene, is a love poem as well as a celebration of carbon atoms.”
Whilst I love writing in workshops and from prompts, nothing beats the feeling of a line emerging all by itself demanding to be written into a full piece. I sometimes write from dreams and love the feeling of rushing to find a blank page in my journal on which to scribe the images and find out if a poem will be formed.
During lockdown I challenged myself to notice things on the drive to work each morning – a shorter version of Ian Macmillan’s morning tweets that needed to fit into the time it took from switching on my computer to being fully logged in. These tweets gave me a sense of being alive during a difficult time and allowed me to see the small details in the changes of the seasons. My full moon poems came about in a similar way when I realised that I was in my fifties, told people I loved the moon, and had not yet learned the full moon names.
Here’s one of Sue Finch’s poems – Flamingo – You can hear Flamingo being read over on IambaPoet
after Liz Berry
The night she bent my elbows to fit the candy floss cardigan for the twenty-third time, my limbs turned to wings. She wished me to be a pink girl.
My neck grew and grew, elongating, extending, black eyes, shrunk in the pink like submerged pea shingle.
Light in my fan of feathers, I was lifted like a balloon puffed with helium. Body and wings held stately, magically anchored by one leg, miniature rough patellas marked my hinges.
When the scent entered half-moon holes in my new beak I could have salivated at the raw rip of scaled flesh but my juices would not run – I was gizzard now. I couldn’t bear the confinement of the flock but flight had me fearful.
Passing through flamingo phase I fattened, darkened. A birch broom in a fit, I shook my thick cheeks side to side became a dodo with a waddle in my walk that slowed.
She sent my father then. He came alone with gun and incongruent grin and shot me dead. Skewered me above his heaped fire under moonlight, turned me slowly round and round.
When he turned for the sauce I dropped; charcoaled feathers, beak tinged with soot, burning in the blaze. I laughed as I rose higher and higher; a golden bird from the fire.
About Sue Finch
Sue Finch likes all kinds of coasts, peculiar things, and the scent of ice-cream freezers. She lives with her wife in North Wales. Her first published poem appeared in A New Manchester Alphabet in 2015 whilst studying for her MA with Manchester Metropolitan University. Her work has also appeared in a number of online magazines including: The Interpreter’s House, Ink, Sweat and Tears, iamb, Dear Reader, One Hand Clapping and IceFloe Press. Her debut collection, ‘Magnifying Glass’, was published in October 2020 with Black Eyes Publishing UK.
Tuesday Guest Feature is taking a two week break. Today I bring you a shoutout for my upcoming novel
Marry the baronet, or vulnerable parents face la prison des pauvres
France 1895 – Seventeen-year-old Françoise abandons her carefree life and sails for England to marry distant cousin Charles Dubois. On arrival she finds her groom aloof and evasive.
Draped in expensive silk brocade, she yearns for her homeland and comfortable gowns, and when she discovers the baronet’s clandestine visits, it is her cheery maid she turns to, her new confidante and friend.
BETRAYAL – HEARTBREAK – FRIENDSHIP
The Oath: A heartbreaking, coming of age, historical fiction saga from the author of House of Grace family saga trilogy.
Watch this space for snippets and updates
Cover Reveal coming very soon
Surely, she could be a prize for any wealthy French man. Why did she have to go all the way to England?
Patricia’s Pen is delighted to welcome poet, Merril Smith, all the way from New Jersey. I got to know Merril via Black BoughPoetryTop Tweet Tuesday on Twitter. Without further ado, it’s over to Merril to chat about her writing.
Thank you very much, Patricia, for inviting me to Patricia’s Pen! I appreciate this wonderful opportunity to discuss writing and my work.
I have considered myself to be a writer for many years, but a poet for only a few. After the publication of my first book, Breaking the Bonds (NYU Press), I wrote/edited several non-fiction books–monographs, edited volumes, and reference work on history, gender, and sexuality published. However, writing and editing these books did not fulfil me the way writing poetry does. I think I needed a creative outlet, but it needed to be at the right time. It’s hard to explain, but I began to write poetry in a type of stream-of-consciousness outpouring on my blog, Yesterday and Today, like the muse just took over and decided now. Gradually, I began responding to online poetry prompts and working on learning how to craft poetry. I believe my first poem was published in 2018.
I compiled my full-length collection, River Ghosts(Nightingale & Sparrow Press) during the summer of the COVID lockdown. It was a scary, bleak time. One week in April of that year, one of our cats died suddenly on a day that began with storms and tornado warnings and ended with clear, blue sky and spring flowers. Then at the end of that week, my mother died. Because of the lockdown, we could not be with her. The deaths of Mickey, my mom, COVID, despair, love, and the beauty of April will always be linked in my mind. In that spring and summer, I walked and saw beauty all around me, even while people were dying. I began my own sort of mourning ritual during my morning walks, where I tossed a stone into the river.
Some of the poems in River Ghosts are about death or witnessing horrible events, but there are also poems of love, family, and nature’s beauty. The collection combines poems written earlier (some published) with some written for the volume. That said, I think my style has changed and improved since the publication of River Ghosts. I believe this is because I’ve concentrated on writing more imagist poetry. So—a shoutout to Matthew MC Smith, his Black Bough Poetry and @TopTweetTuesday, and also for the supportive online poetry community!
There are geniuses in all areas, but for most people, like me, writing poetry is a combination of creative spark, a way of seeing the world, and learned skills. I think River Ghostsworks, but I really didn’t know anything about putting a collection together then–almost three years ago. This month marks the one-year anniversary of its publication. I still walk by the river, I still think of my mom (and dad), but I know they would both be proud of me and this book. My older child created the cover art, so it’s a book that carries family and memory through its pages. The new collection I’m working on will have some of those themes, but I think it will be very different.
About Merril Smith
Merril D. Smith lives in southern New Jersey near the Delaware River. Her poetry has been published in journals including Black Bough Poetry, Anti-Heroin Chic, Acropolis, Humana Obscura, and anthologies, such as the recent Our Own Coordinates: Poems about Dementia (Sidhe Press). Her full-length poetry collection, River Ghosts, was published by Nightingale & Sparrow Press.