The Michigan Poet is more than just great poetry for free. We offer Michigan communities a chance to discover the great literary culture of a state largely known for industry. The Michigan Poet believes art enriches our lives, and fosters positive, creative, and unique identities that are essential to the success of any community. The Michigan Poet affirms Michigan as a state of important art and unique culture. Copies of The Michigan Poet are available to any business, school, organization, or individual that would like to display or distribute. Please request a copy by emailing TheMichiganPoet@gmail.com
Who's operating this publication?
Foster Neill (Founder, Editor)
Jon Bergmann (Co-founder, Designer, Webmaster)
Katty Neill (Graphic Designer)
The Michigan Poet publishes high-quality poetry from established and emerging poets living in Michigan and distributes to Michigan communities. Previously published poems with acknowledgements are welcome. Submissions without previous publication acknowledgement will be considered previously unpublished. Simultaneous & multiple submissions are welcome though we expect immediate notification if work is accepted elsewhere.
The Michigan Poet seeks poems less than 25 lines that are accessible to readers of all ages and interest levels. Poems should be all-age appropriate and suitable for school environments. Politically biased, overtly sexual, religious, or otherwise controversial poems will be rejected. We accept unsolicited submissions all year. Acceptable digital files formats are: .doc .docx .odt .txt .rtf .pdf
All submissions will receive a receipt of consideration. All submissions are considered every month for a year. A poem submitted in January may not be published until November. We seek to run the best work at the best time. Don't hesitate to submit your poem elsewhere. We may still accept your poem, even if published elsewhere.
While we print in a variety of mediums, our primary mode is monthly broadsides (11x17). Current run is 70 with distribution in East Lansing, Holland and Big Rapids.
The Michigan Poet pays 2 copies of the broadside, or booklets with the option of receiving more at cost of production.
Contact us for hard copies:
We ship back issues of our broadsides on request. Email us with your contact information, how many copies you would like, and what you want to do with them. (It's always nice to hear where the poems go!)
Contact us to get involved:
The Michigan Poet is always looking for volunteers and sponsors to help with publication, distribution, and event hosting. We welcome your comments, questions, and inquiries. Please email us at email@example.com
The Michigan Poet is a non-profit effort. We are individuals dedicated to sharing poetry through posters, contests, classes, and readings. If you would like to show your appreciation please support The Michigan Poet by providing a small donation. Your gift will help us continue to provide creative and thoughtful content. Secure donations can be made through Paypal:
Residency Test at the Ore Dock
I no longer stop
when the chutes shudder and lower.
I don’t turn when I hear
the pellets bang and race to the cargo hold.
I am not mesmerized as the ship unzips the seam
between Superior and the sky,
but at night
when the freighter lights flow
between two wells of darkness
I cannot look away.
I believe every person has a place, a particular landscape that
resonates. I have fallen in love with the constantly
changing face of Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula’s rugged
beauty. Late in life, I have found my home.
Janeen Pergrin Rastall lives in Gordon, MI, population 2. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications including The Raleigh Review, Prime Number Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, Heron Tree, Great Lakes Review and The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works by Wayne State University Press
Eleanor on the Playground
For years we stood in the cold
with the wind raking our faces,
in the summer with the heat
pressing us into the ground.
We were trapped
beneath the monkey bars.
You rested your head
on the hollow metal steps
near the slide and when you
lifted your cheek, there were
little O's imprinted on it.
Your husband weaved inebriated
up and down the street.
My husband was fused
to the chair in his cubicle.
We could not ooze out
through the X’s in the mesh fence.
One day a man came
and poured concrete over my head.
I was relieved that someone
had finally taken action.
A blue jay alighted on my shoulder
and set to squawking.
That roused you.
Just before he cast you,
you slipped into a little girl’s backpack
and she smuggled you out.
"Eleanor on the Playground" was written for a friend of mine. She and I spent a lot of time together on the playground when our children were little wishing, I'm sorry to say, that we were elsewhere. Now that our children are older, we look back on that time fondly. Strange how the world works! I wish that I had more perspective back then.
Around us, trees are close, various:
Maple, white pine, oak, ash.
From how far off does this cottonwood
open her whippish pods,
her hundred unworried mouths,
and bedeck the breeze?
It’s an audacious drift
through scads of hitches
to interrupt our admiration
of color—she doesn’t care
that we’re sick of falling’s settled silence,
winter’s long subduction: at the road’s
thatchy edge, the white fuzz of her insistence
is deep enough to stand in.
Oh, to speak like that, the lightest gifts:
To feel the world needs to hear you like that.
Catherine Turnbull’s poems have appeared in Green Mountains Review, Dunes Review, Dos Passos Review, and other small magazines that have since folded. Her 2008 chapbook, The Chocolatier Speaks of His Wife, was published by Michigan Writers Cooperative Press. She lives in Traverse City. This particular poem grew out of frustration--out of not wanting to see any more little white things falling from the sky after the snow finally had melted, and wanting words, which can be so intractable, to actually DO some effortless falling onto a page.
Farmhouse Fire 1957
Boasting on my memory
of family history, I recall
for my mother the farmhouse fire
that killed a girl across the road
from our stone house outside
Harbor Beach. She was older
than me. (I was in second grade.)
She must have rode the same bus.
I say, “There was a glow
in the night that woke us.
It must have been in winter
with chimney fires and faulty wiring.
Steam rose off the manure piles
and water from the pumper truck.”
Mom chuckles, not callously,
about rural tragedy, but loves
to find my details askew:
“I didn’t want you to see
so I closed your bedroom door.
You never woke up, even when
sirens came. And it was Spring,
the culvert in flood out front.
The glow was probably sunrise
off Lake Huron. We had a window
facing east as you came down
for breakfast. Sure, there was
steam off that barnyard,
like any other morning.”
previously published in Shadow Road (summer 2012)
Chris Dungey is a retired auto worker still sub teaching and taking sports photos for local papers around Lapeer. He calls U of Michigan-Flint his alma mater thanks to Generous Motors tuition refund program of olden times. He sings in a Presbyterian choir, cuts a lot of firewood, and can’t wait to get to Florida for the 12 Hours of Sebring. He enjoys hiking and camping at sports car race venues and is a long-time member of Flint Area Writer’s Club. Chris has had more than 120 poems in small presses, most recently online at Shadow Road, Emprise Review, Breakwater Review, and Northwind Magazine. Prized publications over the years include San Jose Studies, Reed Magazine, Evansville Review, Windsor Review, Redrock Review, Poem, Owen Wister Review, and Borderlands; Texas Poetry Review.
Neruda in Kalamazoo
Susan Blackwell Ramsey
Neruda shakes his head at Kalamazoo,
but he’s half-amused. There, in the corner
of Water Street Coffee Joint, in the flat cap,
watching from under heavy lids with eyes
darker than the espresso he hasn’t tasted.
He’s working on a metaphor equating
a nation’s eros and its taste in coffee.
He isn’t optimistic. Watching the slender,
bundled young ordering their syrups, soy milk,
(blood of anemic beans, he mutters,) he worries
for them. Such dilute fuel for love with all
those layers of wool, down, fleece to penetrate.
He sighs. Even their pale eyes afford no traction,
strike no sparks. It’s like wrestling water.
But as he shakes his head, he sniffs, looks up.
Cinnamon. A girl at the counter is sprinkling
cinnamon straight into her coffee cup.
The young man at the table to his left
forms a fist under the table. Outside
the gravel is resolving into mud.
Well. Perhaps. He opens his paper, sips.
(originally published in The Southern Review)
Susan Blackwell Ramsey is a reluctantly displaced bookseller fortunate enough to have found, in Kalamazoo, precisely the proper-sized pond. Her first book, A Mind Like This, won the Prairie Schooner prize when she was 61, so the pressure to succeed or die young was off. She got her BA from Kalamazoo College in 1972 and her MFA from Notre Dame in 2008, thereby missing Derrida completely, for which she is profoundly grateful.
Now even the cardinals
those blood spatters
and only the crows are left
solemn in their black suit
pulling a shroud
over the field’s stiff face.
I find myself drawn to the landscape in the dead of winter when the glamorous colors and sounds of autumn have long disappeared. I’m drawn to the moment as it exists before I impose ideas on it, before I create narratives and center myself at the heart of it. I like to look closely at the lace of a single snowflake as well as heap them into piles that drift from the wind. And so I am quite fond of Chinese and Japanese poetry and of the work of American writers such as W.S. Merwin, Jane Hirschfield and Gary Snyder. If I pay attention to what surrounds me every day, the snow, ice, light, and shadow, I am to that extent that much more awake. My poetry is a way to make sense of my life, but more than that it is a way to celebrate the gift of being alive. A new book of my poems, Feeding Wild Birds, will be available in May from Mayapple Press.
L. S. Klatt
Though the GM plant has long been abandoned, birches grow in its decaying heap of automotive manuals. Thus, after a generation of feeding, a grove arises, then paper- maché automobiles, suspended in branches like nests. And the nobody who will never drive the automobiles also is summoned. Or perhaps he is somebody, a veritable Chief who paddles the Detroit River from Lake St. Clair. Yes, it is very clear that a sachem, Pontiac, is the driver of the birch-bark vehicles & that he foresees a floodplain full of headlights. Yes, it is very obvious that in the trees is an invention which Pontiac approves. The ideas of transmission, alternator, spoiler, & manifold can be sustained by trees; trees yield paper; paper yields Firebirds.
Previously having been opposed to the prose poem, L. S. Klatt found himself inexplicably writing a series of them. “GENERAL MOTORS” is one of those prose pieces; it is also an ekphrastic poem, inspired by Andrew Moore’s exhibition of photographs entitled Detroit Disassembled. Other new work from L. S. Klatt has appeared or will appear in Columbia Poetry Review, Blackbird, Colorado Review, Narrative, Indiana Review, and The Common. His second collection, Cloud of Ink (University of Iowa Press, 2011), won the Iowa Poetry Prize. He teaches American literature and creative writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I’ve wheelbarrowed over a thousand
apples behind the cedars
Hundreds are still left stranded
in the branches, dropping with each burst
of wind. Every year’s a blur,
and my heart marks another tally off
inside my chest wall. This is the year
of my first grandson, who purrs
asleep in my arms, who looks through me
with his dark eyes. I touch his soft
cheeks and his little fists shoot out
as if to catch himself.
We’re all falling into the great trough,
I want to say but don’t.
I can’t imagine his world without
imagining the end of mine.
Who will sit in this lovely yard
and write poems? There’s no doubt
someone will, someone from this dying planet
who will look over at the pines
and remember his past and smile.
The wind will blow apples
down, the autumn sun will shine,
and he’ll hear the jay calling
for no reason other than to file
a complaint that the bird bath
is dry as a bone.
In the end, we all bow our heads in exile,
and prepare, in our own ways, for the fall.
The older I get, the more I find myself writing this kind of poem. The gravity of time and experience begin to pull me in a certain direction. The concept of the birth of a poem fascinates me. I'm sure I am incapable of writing the types of poems I wrote in my 20's and 30's today, just as I'm positive I could never have written "Falling" before my 50's. So, that leads me to believe that particular poems can only be born at specific times in my life, which makes me wonder how many poems I've lost through the years when I wasn't writing. If you need a better explanation, you can find me teaching writing at Oakland Community College. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We never used the front door at our house, always preferring
To slip in through the side door, an indirect route through the
Kitchen to the living room, the living room where my father
Slipped into death, as I held his hand and said,
Don’t worry, Daddy, Don’t worry. We’ll be all right.
And though we were not all right, not at all, my father used
My assurance to slip out of the living room, his last exhalation
Dispersing into the air of the house,
As we inhaled and impossibly continued
Living. Later, they took him out the front door,
The most direct route to the hearse waiting in the drive.
And my mother moved the furniture and vacuumed the floor,
So that when I slipped in from the kitchen, my wild grief
Silently contained, it was as if my father had never been
In the living room at all, except for the front door,
Standing open to an October breeze, passing softly through the house.
Diane Henningfeld is a professor emerita of English at Adrian College where she continues to work as the Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations. She has edited/authored over twenty-five non-fiction books for high school students. She recently began writing poetry again after a long hiatus spent talking with students about literature and writing. Of this poem she writes, “I began thinking I would write about side doors and indirection, and found instead a poem about ephemerality and passages.” Her poem “December” will appear in the spring issue of The Penwood Review.
Reading Comprehension 44: Woodsmen
W. Todd Kaneko
Woodsmen have shaggy chests, bulletproof to save trees from treacherous
animals. Boys like us shout at the forest, O bad wolves—you call animals
beautiful before you bury your teeth in their bellies! We call our axes
beautiful and swing them in wide arcs, splintering bone and bough.
Woodsmen listen for cries of tiny girls and goats in need of rescue. We
shout at the forest, O mighty pines, you will give up your flesh for new
houses! We eat sandwiches made of bees and hot mustard, we spit
galvanized nails and flame. We cannot take our eyes off woodsmen, their
skin bronzed by the sky’s hot breath. We shout at the forest, O stupid fire,
you cannot burn the trees because we need something to chop! We swing
our axes, put our back into each strike. We cannot resist the scent of
woodsmen, that tang of fresh rain and pine. With a sudden bite of an axe,
our grandmothers are free from the wolf’s gullet. Our ancestors are free
from those manacles binding them to history. Our homes are free from the
tyranny of ghosts. Woodsmen build things like bedroom doors and
television sets. We pound our chests so our metal hearts rattle through
breakfast. We swing our axes and shout at the forest.
Question: Why do boys want to be woodsmen?
a) Boys wish to be thunderous, to deafen trees.
b) Boys secretly long to be wolves.
c) Boys don’t know better.
W. Todd Kaneko is not cool enough to be a rock star, not tall enough to be a professional wrestler, and not virtuous enough to be a super-hero. His work can be seen in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, Southeast Review, Lantern Review, NANO Fiction, The Collagist, Blackbird, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he teaches in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University. Visit him at www.toddkaneko.com.
Leigh C. Grant
If knowing the sunlight wouldn’t last
I closed my blinds to the day.
If one day when moving rocks
she found an arrowhead
left it gleaming on the windowsill
sharp point East
to the sunrise
dust gathering around it
the absence of dust in its place
If someone were to steal it away
into their pocket.
Its shape would be there
like our faces on film, shadows
and light reversed
tucked neatly inside an envelope.
If the albums were lost in the fire
and you were standing there
ashes settling around you
the shape of your two feet—
we would have lived in that same small space,
years billowing in, moving all around us.
Leigh C. Grant teaches writing and literature at Macomb Community College in Metro Detroit. Her poetry and fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle Magazine, Pearl, The Ambassador Poetry Project and The Bear River Review, among others. She received Wayne State University’s John Clare Prize for Poetry which is endowed by the Academy of American Poets, an honorable mention from the Springfed Metro Detroit Writers for prose, and Saginaw Valley State University’s Tyner Roethke Award for Poetry.
From the bluff called Cedar Bluff, though the cedars
were mostly gone, she watched the two young men,
small from her height, as they stood a few feet
out in the lake. What do brothers talk about?
Do they still say she’s crazy because she doesn’t
want them to spill things? Exchanging one
syllable confidences? Their backs to her,
as if she could read their lips 500 feet down
a sand dune. She could get the binoculars—
hear them say I almost like Jeter now he’s old.
Well, you can’t spend your whole life hating Jeter.
She heads back to the small house.
They’ll be climbing the dune looking
looking for food—their only proof of love.
She says je vous aimez les deux.
They hear do you want mustard?
They’ll stop to wash the sand off their feet
like they’ve been taught, the hose kinked
and neither will fix it—just spray patiently.
She will study this—how the hose makes one sharp turn
and the sun will glance off lean brown bodies.
Deborah grew up in Washington DC and eventually moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan to attend graduate school. She fell in love with the large nearby lake and never left. She loves the idea of broadsides and posters because poems are so often prematurely sealed away in books. She is presently part of a collaboration between a group of writers and the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center (www.kalbookarts.org) to explore ways to provide a longer and perhaps more adventurous lifespan for our words.
Holly Wren Spaulding
How bright the memory
of honey and lemons
squeezed each morning,
overlooking the harbor.
that hill in Croatia.
The burnt sky, pear trees,
and pitchers of wine
while the sea melted
Bitter greens with garlic.
Oil pooling in our spoons
when we needed little else.
The dusted road, an oak
split by lightning. Smoke,
and glorious green, after.
‘Ago’ first appeared in The Northwestern Michigan College Magazine.
Poems help me notice things, attend what matters, focus my attention, and be at play in the fields of the imagination. Some people insist they don’t like poetry or that it has no “use”—as though everything must be utilitarian to have value. Still, I’ve noticed that many of us long for this form of song, and by taking time to read or write a poem—an increasingly simple, yet radical pleasure—we preserve slowness and beauty, even in a fast world of flash and noise.
Linda Leedy Schneider
I reclaim the orchard.
Tear down the houses. Plant trees.
I reclaim buds, blossoms and bees.
I reclaim milk in glass bottles
left in a tin box, frozen cream
that rose to the top broke open the seal
I reclaim the lid I slid off popping corn
to delight my dog who ate the evidence.
I reclaim my father’s lap,
towers of blocks built
for the thrill of their crash,
being able to rebuild over and over.
I reclaim myself from rows of wooden desks,
crayons I must not peel, arithmetic facts,
surplus apples, and the names on the blackboard
under We do not talk in work period.
I reclaim the live monarch
I had to impale and spray
with fixative for Miss Mason
whose wall of breasts fed no one.
I reclaim the girl who finally refused
to kill a frog for the biology teacher.
I reclaim that girl and the right
to rebuild any tower
over and over again.
“I Reclaim” was previously published in Rattle.
Linda Leedy Schneider is a political activist, poetry and writing mentor, and psychotherapist in private practice. She has been a faculty member at Aquinas College and Kendall College of Art and Design. Linda received a Readers’ Choice Award from Pedestal Magazine and was honored by the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition. Her work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She leads workshops internationally for venues including the Manhattan Writing Workshop and The International Women’s Writing Guild. Her work has been published in hundreds of literary magazines including The Pedestal Magazine, Rattle, and The Sow’s Ear. She has written six collections of poetry including Some Days: Poetry of a Psychotherapist (Plain View Press 2011) and has edited two collections of poetry written by poets whom she has mentored: Mentor’s Bouquet (Finishing Line Press 2010) and Poems From 84th Street (Pudding House Publications 2010).
is happy today.
It sounds the roof
as a tambourine,
pings and claps
on the windowsills.
under the plants
on the patio gasp.
The dry earth
– my friend who
has been gone
so many years –
on the ceiling
in the corner
of the old chapel
Don Cellini is a professor of Spanish at Adrian College. About this poem, he writes: “I was traveling with students in Nicaragua recently. One day as we were having lunch in a restaurant, I noticed that it was raining outside. A student said, ‘I don’t mind the rain here. It’s happy rain. The sun is still out, people are walking around, and it will be over soon.’ I jotted the phrase ‘happy rain’ in my notebook and the final result is this poem.”
In addition to his teaching and poetry, Cellini is also a photographer and translator. His poetry books include Approximations / Aproximaciones (2005) and Inkblots (2008) both from March Street press and Translate into English (2010) from Mayapple Press. His translations are Elías Nandino: Selected Poems in English and Spanish (2010) from McFarland Publishers, Inc. and Roxana Elvridge-Thomas’ Imágenes para una anunciación / Images for an Annunciation, (2012) by FootHills Publishers. The poem “The rain / is happy” is from the manuscript Candidates for Sainthood and other sinners / Aprendices de santo y otros pecadores, which is currently in search of a home. Read more of his work and see his photos at www.doncellini.com.
With Die Cast Cars
Bent over a fleet of matchbox cars,
she squints through enormous magnifying glass,
peering at numbers etched on the underside
of each station wagon, pickup, coup & sedan.
Loose curls in gray hair. Her jaw distinctly
fixed, the perfect grimace for studying toys.
Light through yellowed windows coats
the room: plastic organizers line the wall, cherry
bookcases, his walnut pipe rack & tarnished
letter opener he will not open a piece
of mail without. Dust glides slowly
through the sunlight. She has stored things
she loves in this crowded room –
indexed, arranged, along with
die cast cars, pipe tobacco, musty books,
a small framed photograph of the moon.
David Hornibrook grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and currently resides in Troy, Michigan with his wife and three children. He received his undergraduate degree from Oakland University and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Flyway, Dunes Review, Stone’s Throw Magazine and elsewhere.
When Names Escaped Us
Gordon Henry Jr.
The boy painted himself white and ran into the darkness.
We let the words “he may be dead, bury him,”
We took his clothes to the rummage sale
in the basement of the mission
We put his photographs and drawings
in a birdcage and covered it with a starquilt.
For four nights voices carried clear to the river.
After winter so many storms moved in
strangers came among us
They shoveled in the shadows of trees
Then, somehow we all felt
all of us were of this one boy.
For You who Might Try to Read Me
For a long time I could not speak. I held words, words, words in and so they stayed within. Then there was music, winter, dreams and then the poems came out to play in fields of light, before fires, on roads between relatives, in flights from other countries, cracked open memory by memory, in concert with older slants of relative talk, lost music, slippery phantoms, bodies needing nothing, but to go moving, song to song, voice to voice, a breath hanging there, in the branches of trees, words already gone.
Gordon Henry, Jr. is an enrolled member of the White Earth Chippewa Tribe of Minnesota. He received a MA in Creative Writing from Michigan State University and a PhD, in English, from the University of North Dakota. His novel The Light People won an American Book Award and his poetry, prose and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies throughout the U.S. and Europe. His poetry has been translated into Greek, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. His creative work is informed by long time participation in ceremonies and by his personal reflections on Anishinaabe life, place and relations. He has lived in Michigan for over twenty-five years.
I climb the dune’s highest hill. I want to fly away home.
Up here, it’s quiet and breezy. Slowly, a toy boat draws
a white line across Glen Lake. My heart calms.
The people who climb after me have not hurt each other.
Campers stream off a blue schoolbus, then wobble in canoes
near shore. Though I know they must be singing,
I can’t hear the song.
Kathleen McGookey’s poems, prose poems, and translations have appeared in over forty journals and ten anthologies including The Antioch Review, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Field, Indiana Review, The Laurel Review, Ploughshares, The Prose Poem: An International Journal, Quarterly West, Seneca Review, West Branch, and Willow Springs. Her book, Whatever Shines, is available from White Pine Press. She has translated contemporary French poet Georges Godeau’s work, and a book of his prose poems, We’ll See, is forthcoming from Parlor Press in December of 2011. Her chapbook, October Again, is forthcoming from Burnside Review Press in 2012. She lives in Middleville, Michigan with her husband and her two young children.
Your first nest was blind, more like a sieve
than a safety net and you were a beak in its pupil,
wide open at every sound
hungry hungry hungry.
Your second was a window full of sky
half-covered with bright frost,
a circle of ungraspable light through which
you saw what you hungered for.
The third moved in an orbit you recognized
as your own, shells clustered in the center
unhatched atoms, bubblers of vitellus and glair
where discarded egg teeth grew into necklaces.
The fourth nest you mended with grape vine
and mud, underpinned with oak leaves,
invested with the future, where small choirs sang
bread songs in long woolen sleeves.
Your last nest will evolve from these: add
carnelian husks of forty broken Easters. Interlace old
paper, pie crust, ice. Place votives at the quarter hours.
Leave matches nearby. Finish with your own white hair.
Raised by old people who gathered to tell stories, I snuck down to listen behind the banister and use my imagination. The woods and lakes I learned by heart as a child have sustained me all my life. The landscapes are still real enough to touch, if only in memory. Nature teaches, and I’ve tried to be a good student.
The Songbird’s Song
I worry about the songbird. She disappears, one note at a time.
The songbird outside my window sings a complicated song. Each note
devotion and clear glass and water. There are dips and trills and sharps.
It causes unmistakable pain and often goes unnoticed. Each night, of this
I’m certain, the songbird’s song is one note less.
The rules are unclear. It’s hard to measure what’s being lost.
Maybe the night hunter waits, cuts down one trailing note at a time.
I can’t see the bird, or a hunter. I smell gunpowder. I make the night into
bullets. I make the night into music.
If I invited you over to hear the songbird’s song, I’m not sure you would
hear it. I would listen to the things that moved in your life, we would
drink, but we would both be waiting for the song. There are only so many notes.
I hear the song and open the window. I feel the cold and the stirring leaves.
I listen for the lost notes and worry that I’m missing the notes
that have not yet gone. One thing is taken away at a time. This may be happening everywhere.
On this night, I hear a single note. I close the window against the silence
and wait. I make the night into glass. I make the night into songbird.
Nothing left to do but sing.
The Songbird's Song first appeared in Zócalo Public Square.
If Chris Haven is collecting states, then Michigan is: fourth in sequence, second in years of residence, but first in debt, as he owes much to the state. Addition, after all, has always been more fun than subtraction. He teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Allendale and edits the journal Wake: Great Lakes Thought & Culture.
The Blue of Swimming Pools
With power out—people were stocking water and ice:
I thought it wise to drive to town.
The stoplights weren’t working but people were polite,
it looked the same; the only grocery open was Brown’s.
I thought it wise to drive to town.
People were pushing carts, nothing was different,
it looked the same—the only grocery open was Brown’s;
the store had power but customers looked indifferent
people were pushing carts, nothing was different.
I checked on ice, thoroughly enjoying the cool air.
The store had power but customers looked indifferent;
it was good to be out and it was hard not to stare.
I checked on ice, thoroughly enjoying the cool air
stocking things that didn’t require refrigeration.
It was good to be out and it was hard not to stare,
not to laugh at the tabloid photo of alien navigation
buying things that didn’t require refrigeration.
The small alien carrying a limp woman made it impossible
not to laugh at the tabloid photo of alien navigation.
The bags of ice were colder than I thought possible;
the small alien carrying a limp woman made it impossible,
quite beyond belief. The letters on the ice were blue,
the bags of ice were colder than I thought possible;
the fleeting pleasures of hot days can be very few.
Quite beyond belief, the letters on the ice were blue
soothing, the blue of swimming pools, hills of snow,
the fleeting pleasures of hot days can be very few.
With lots of water and ice I leave Brown’s in the know:
soothing, the blue of swimming pools, hills of snow.
The stoplights weren’t working but people were polite,
with lots of water and ice I leave Brown’s in the know
with power out—people were stocking water and ice.
Franklin-Christoph 2010 Poetry Contest Award Winner
This poem is based on a power loss a few summers ago. I never knew why the electricity went off or how widely it did in Michigan, but going to town was a memorable event I jotted down—raw material for this formal verse. It was fun writing it (the second pantoum I ever wrote) and figured I had nothing to lose by sending it to a contest after it hadn’t been accepted by magazines. It was a great surprise when it became a Franklin-Christoph 2010 Poetry Contest Award Winner. When I got the news I was sure it was a mistake until I got another notice. It is a great honor to have it included in The Michigan Poet.
Women and Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women Poets (co-ed.) Foreword by Molly Peacock, McFarland, 2012
Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity, and Other Realms (Anaphora Literary Press, 2011)
Cindy Hunter Morgan
We played pinochle in the hayloft
and watched dust float in swaths
of sunshine, swirling in constellations
we named after horses.
We opened our mouths and caught
hundreds of motes; swallowed them,
took them inside of us
and held them, hidden, until evening.
In the shadowed globe of our attic
bedroom, we blew them out like bubbles
and watched their gentle gymnastics,
their slow tumbles and twists.
We fell asleep beneath them,
and if, in the heavy darkness,
they started to slip or settle
or slumber, our breath kept them
aloft, alive in the galaxy
of our making.
Cindy Hunter Morgan lives in East Lansing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in West Branch, Tar River Poetry, Bateau, Sugar House Review, Weave, A Cappella Zoo, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere. For ten years, she worked in the orchestra field, directing publicity for the Grand Rapids Symphony and, later, the Lansing Symphony Orchestra. She believes music and poetry have a deep purpose in this world, and she appreciates what Aaron Copland wrote about the importance of art to our country: “Art and the life of art must mean something, in the deepest sense, to the everyday citizen. When that happens, America will have achieved a maturity to which every sincere artist will have contributed.” You can find her blog at greatcrestedflycatcher.blogspot.com
Some tomato! GIs on furlough used to shout with a whistle
when spotting a girl in shorts with what they called
great gams—silky bronze legs that led to whatever
helped those guys stop thinking of tanks wallowing
in snow, mud, sand, dust, fire, blood, gristle—all
the stuff that killed their dreams of warm sheets. What
did I know then, subteen early as this tomato plant
I now stuff into dirt, my legs creaking, white hair flying in chill
wind, while another war blows hot and girls are called what-
ever stops men’s mouths from screaming. So when the names
of real tomatoes—Big Boy, Beefmaster, Better Bush—
shoot me back to the Forties, I pick Early Girl for what
cold climate needs and memory wants to play with, because
this girl’s not coming back, the one whose daddy didn’t whistle,
but planted tomatoes after working on the Bomb for peace. What
am I doing if not thinking of early and late, now and then,
men and women, war and peace, red and black, this and that,
as I apply manure, hope for sun, wonder what
it’s all for. Is someone watching a movie of me as I grow
up and old, someone who loves me enough to let me keep
living a while longer until I love myself? And what
comes next, Mrs. Tomato, either miraculous little globe or
bright-eyed, black-haired girl with trowel in the old picture frame?
One to be eaten, the other still asking why, how, what.
First appeared in The New Guard in another version
Elinor Benedict served as founding editor of Passages North and co-conducted the Bay de Noc Writers Conference during the ‘80s in the Upper Peninsula. After publishing five poetry chapbooks, her first full collection, All That Divides Us, won the May Swenson Award in 2000. Last year she published her second book, Late News from the Wilderness (Main Street Rag). An immigrant from Tennessee (whose language she still speaks), she now divides her time between Michigan and Florida as she gears up for a third book beginning with this poem.
Blanched light before sunrise. Stony mist clings
to glass-dark surface, the last cool moment.
On the opposite shore, an elm-choked point,
a doe appears as if conjured. She sips,
then walks right into the water and swims
the thousand feet to the near shore, serene,
no sign of the churning her spindly legs
must do. Our greatest efforts go unseen.
I fear I will never remember this
perfectly enough to tell you: From here
her head has just the shape of a rabbit
walking on water. Dawn cracks the shell
of the eastern sky,
lake already failing the mist.
Originally was published by The Adroit Journal
Amorak Huey was born in Kalamazoo, grew up in the South, and returned to Michigan serendipitously in 2000. He spent 15 years as a reporter and editor, including working as assistant sports editor at The Grand Rapids Press. In 2008, he left the newspaper business (voluntarily) to teach creative and professional writing at Grand Valley State University. He holds an MFA from Western Michigan University and serves as managing editor of the journal Wake: Great Lakes Thought & Culture. For more, visit amorakhuey.net.
Truth Be Told
It seems there is an elephant in the room
eating the whole enchilada
that is to say, it is taking a back seat
to truth, which of course is stranger than fiction,
but isn't that the way the cookie crumbles
you're damned if you do, damned if you don't
I mean - you shouldn't bite the hand that
feeds you, so don't hold your breath—
take it from me - when it comes to truth
you can lead a horse to water
but you can't make it drink—
to be honest with you
one is so easily taken for a ride
besides your goose is cooked almost
every time you try to test the waters
for when it comes to truth
all that glitters is not gold,
don't shoot me I'm just the messenger,
sometimes a cigar is just a cigar
and sometimes there is nothing but
a snowballs chance in hell
that you could stem the tide of…
Here's the thing
don't tempt fate—on such a sticky topic
as truth that sets you free.
Creative writing is a means by which we can take the events of our lives - the perceptions, observations and memories, and not only grapple with them, but once expressed and put to paper we can then physically hold them. Most writers are grateful to publishers for the opportunity to allow their art to be more fully experienced. Joy Gaines-Friedler is no exception to this. Joy Gaines-Friedler teaches creative writing for Springfed Arts, and InsideOut Literary Arts Project in and around the Detroit area and beyond. Her work is widely published and has won numerous awards. You can view her acknowledgments and Bio atjoygainesfriedler.com.
Six Short Poems About Loss
One Year Later
For weeks, of course, the phone still rang for you;
letters arrived with your name and my address;
your weight stayed long in the chairs, and even now
something of you in the mirror changes my face.
Out into rain, out into slow streets, out into my name;
Out into my friends, my coat, my shoes;
Out into trees, mirrors jammed with your face;
Out into my life, your absence, a dangerous town.
Morning, and the ice gone
off the river—
the bridge to cross over,
the boats to bear us
downstream, all gone
with the dream.
swim toward land
sleep toward morning
speak toward silence
walk toward water
wake toward evening
speak toward silence
I wish I could be there
to help you
do without me
I wish you could be here
this fine emptiness
I’ll cut my nails
or stop clenching my fists
One Year Later, Aubade, Parting Wishes, Toward, and Soon previously published in The Door to the Moon: Poems Smaller and Smaller (March Street Press) 1993.
Eric Torgersen taught Creative Writing at Central Michigan University for thirty-eight years. His most recent book is the novella The Man Who Loved Rilke, (March Street Press). He has just completed a collection of ghazals, In Which We See Our Selves: American Ghazals, and Emergency Exit, a volume of translations of the German poet Nicolas Born.
Spring Ephemerals and the Nature of Metaphor
The trout lily feels like metaphor—
its brown spotted leaves dominating
the forest floor for two or three weeks,
delicate yellow flowers drooping
and hard to find…then disappearing
one warm night when I forget to look—
but it’s very real, underground now,
awaiting its time to bloom next year.
I have collected thirty-five of these eight line poems in a chapbook called Marginalia for a Natural History, which will be published in the Fall, 2011, by Black Lawrence Press. That collection is dedicated to Traverse City nature writer Jerry Dennis, because the idea for a series of little poems, mostly inspired by small moments of observation of the natural world, began in conversations with Jerry. Of course, the poems are NOT natural history, just ideas beside it. Notes in the margin. Oh, yeah, my two most recent books were published by Wayne State University Press; If the World Becomes So Bright (2009); and Ghost Writers (2011), an anthology of contemporary Michigan ghost stories, co-edited with Laura Kasischke, one of my colleagues in the University of Michigan writing program.
Making It New
On this cold lagoon
gray willow leaves are jamming
in flotilla against the shore.
The dry ones lift stem or tip
swirling in the wind like fighting geese.
Last year’s oriole nest hangs
senselessly among bowing sallow switches.
Vast spaces of air and light are stripping
the world clean to the bone.
between these words and paper
a scared frog rising from mud bottom
breaks the water’s surface with new eyes.
Published in Sandscript by Cape Cod Writers Inc. ; reprinted in Labor Day at Walden Pond by Edward Morin (Roseville, MI: Ridgeway Press, 1997).
Since growing up within walking distance of Lake Michigan, I’ve been sensitive to weather and change of seasons. I nearly always carry the stub of a pencil and scrap of paper, prepared for any urge to write a poem, song, or translation. I’ve taught at 5 Michigan colleges and universities and acted in 30 plays. New Letters, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Prairie Schooner have published my work. Labor Day at Walden Pond and The Red Azalea: Chinese Poetry Since the Cultural Revolution (U. of Hawaii Press) are my most recent books. I have three book manuscripts queued for publication.
If we knew how fast we actually spun,
how fast the Earth’s wild eastward tumble
& us standing on it in our backyards
when we were spinning ourselves
frantically in circles & falling on our backs
in the sprinkler-banned brown grass
with the world all clouds & jet wash & back-lit evening swirling,
cicadas revving up their engines,
and how quickly each day would darken toward the next
once we knew the science & inner workings of it, the passage,
if we knew the speed at which we were being thrown
into the plate glass of each tomorrow,
we might grab at the first thing
found heavy or riveted or planted to the ground—
tree / streetlight / chair-once-tree-now-particle-board
with brushed stainless legs—
we might just sit down for a slow moment
at a breakfast table in a breakfast nook,
last night’s unfinished game of Scrabble left out
& the sun’s new onslaught still soft through the blinds,
discarded tiles, unused blanks,
some brilliant words before now unrevealed
now slowly illuminating.
Jamie Thomas was educated at Western Michigan University and University of Houston, He lives in Detroit and is a visiting professor in the Languages and Literature Department at Ferris State University. Most recently he has poems at 32 Poems, 5 AM, The Missouri Review, New South, The Offending Adam, Salamander and online at Verse Daily. He can be found on the web at thenoviceisapprentice.wordpress.com.
Out the door and down
the hill. Past the elementary
school and across the soccer
fields. The trailhead, past
where deer graze, next
to where the river slides fast
and quiet. The warning signs
and then the tree mural,
the hidden entrance to the park,
through the park to the first
bridge, past the middle school
(do not speak to anyone)
to the second bridge
across the road, next to
a parking lot, next to
the river again. Behind houses
where children stare at
you, behind the Farm & Garden.
Past the last houses and
the old gas fields and
you’ve made it to the open.
When you wish to be gone
this is the way you go.
Jonathan Jay Taylor lives in Big Rapids with his wife and two sons. He earned a BA and MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and is Associate Professor of English at Ferris State University. He is currently editing his collection of poems about raising a son with autism. He is also a technology advocate and can often be found at virtual poetry readings in SecondLife as the avatar Jon Thistle.
Rain keeps opinion to itself.
For days the sky has failed to devise
weavings worthy of our attention,
lasting that will last. We own
trends, temerities, the lines a mower
angles on the lawn. All else
is borrowed: wood, stone, cast iron
graved in names of improbable saints.
Who’ d have thought it would come to this?
We long to hear rain speak of snow,
or to find in a day’ s ride from here
a far sight whiter, more stunning.
Phillip Sterling learned everything he knows about poetry during the two years he worked as a union gravedigger in Troy, MI. The author of Mutual Shores and three chapbook-length poetry series (Significant Others, Quatrains, and Abeyance), he will reinvent himself as a fiction writer with the publication of In Which Brief Stories Are Told by Wayne State University Press next spring (2011). He has taught at Ferris State University since 1987.
As one ventures at twilight
In late October, like a child
Except for the guilt of time
How everything is alright, But not quite—trees cloak
The far side of the pond,
Even ducks have quit stirring
Though oak leaves stir…
Till cattails begin to resemble
Something else. My uncle on his porch
Sucking at his pipe between stories,
A musky furtiveness in the air
Rising over fields from the river—
While I lean against a tree
Middle-aged, invisible perhaps,
But not ironic. Feather bits,
Shucks and snapped twigs. Leaves
Tick to the ground for a moment.
As the future bends and retreats
Then edges forward again…
RVM lives and works in Grand Rapids. His most recent collection is Water, Michigan State University Press. 2009
Bless The Days
Bless the days that linger
in our laps like contented pets.
Bless those that topple
down like children’s blocks.
And make us grateful even for regrets
when we look back
at our misguided tracks.
Bless whatever music plays
in these precarious, precious days.
Miriam Pederson lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she is a Professor of English at Aquinas College. She earned an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. Her chapbook, This Brief Light, was published in 2003 by Finishing Line Press. Her poetry has been published in many anthologies, journals, and small press magazines including New Poems From The Third Coast: Contemporary Michigan Poetry (2000 anthol), The McGuffin, Passages North, The Book of Birth Poetry (anthol.), Christianity and Literature, Sing, Heavenly Muse, Kalliope, and Poets On. Pederson’s poems in collaboration with sculpture created by her husband, Ron Pederson, are exhibited in area and regional galleries.
This morning six crows up on the ridge above the river, their cawing sounding more like the whining of dogs and for an instant that’s exactly what I thought they were—black labs with wings dropping down out of the trees. And that dance they did around the smoldering fire lifted me ever so slightly off my chair and it was all I could do to stay inside my skin. All day I walked the river with my fly rod, trying to sort out the pulsing wings buried in my back. Later that night I found their black dog feather and made each one into a pen…no magic in them, only the oldest black ink. So I stood there, wrote my name over and over in the darkness, saw nothing, and then realized that what I learned all summer comes down to this: I am not the river, but I am.
Michael Delp teaches in the writing program at Interlochen. His latest book, As If We Were Prey, a collection of short stories, is available from Wayne State University Press. He spends his summers at the Reeling Waters Lodge on the Boardman river. More information at michaeldelp.com.
FIBS FOR A MUCROSPIRIFER (using the Fibonacci sequence)
also known as butterfly shells.
I admire your
hinge line and broken fin-like wings.
to root you, sea floor
attacher? No wonder, lost one.
Patricia Clark is the author of three books of poetry, most recently She Walks into the Sea, from Michigan State University Press. A native of Washington State, Patricia lived in five states in ten years before coming to Michigan in 1989. Her early vision of herself as a veterinarian or a biologist yielded in college to a major in economics, quickly abandoned after graduation for creative writing and poetry. Patricia has given poetry readings in Canada, England, Ireland, France, The Netherlands, and Russia. More information at patriciafclark.com.
She was always told not to
eat the seeds, or into the green rind,
but as she ate through its red ripe fruit,
her body began floating to its surface,
sweet water ripening her with each bite.
And the seeds now dangerously deep,
their dark eyes growing, taking root,
edging her on to the green.
The whole of its existence she consumes,
into the night and the noon of of the next day
when the warning comes true:
vines, growing from her ears,
their sweet stems waving to the world.
Published in The Greenriver Review
Therese Becker received her MFA (poetry) from Warren Wilson College in N. Carolina. Her poetry, essays, journalism and photography have been widely published in various literary journals, newspapers, magazines and anthologies including Poetry East; The Beloit Poetry Journal; DoubleTake; The New York Quarterly; Puerto del Sol; Milkweed Chronicle; Witness; Contemporary Michigan Poetry: Poems from the Third coast; and Woman Poet: the Midwest. For many years she taught poetry to children in grades 2 through 12 through the Michigan Council for the Arts Creative Writers in the Schools Program. She’s proud that her student’s work, during those years, appeared in numerous publications including The Louisville Review, The Worcester Review, and The Sourcebook for the World’s Religions, where their words are honored alongside the words of some of the greatest spiritual teachers of our time. A book of their work, When a Child Sings, and Becker’s chapbook, The Fear of Cameras, which is a combination of her poetry and photography, can be found on her website mandalapress.com. And obviously, she’s destined to always love summer and watermelon.
I Saw Delight
I woke up all over my body
waking from the dark
I took light by surprise
I long to hold it
until it’s mine
so short we long
each row opens
as you pass by
Ken Mikolowski is the author of three books of poetry: THANK YOU CALL AGAIN, little mysteries, and Big Enigmas. He teaches poetry writing at the University of Michigan’s Residential College in Ann Arbor. For more than thirty years he was editor, publisher and printer of The Alternative Press.
The Deer on the Patio
peers through the glass door-wall
into my living room. She is small, brown,
and seems far less startled than I,
who have just wandered downstairs
still dazed with early morning sleep.
I stop moving, barely take a breath.
Her eyes are level with mine.
We share a long gaze;
when I shift my weight, she turns
leaps across the snow,
dives through the juniper and disappears
into a clump of trees.
Beyond them, condos are being built.
I call silently to warn her.
The prisms of the chandelier
throw arcs of color on my wall.
In the kitchen, I set the table,
measure out the morning coffee,
wondering what she perceived as she
looked inside at a wooden table, an Oriental rug
and a strange two-legged animal, upright,
wrapped in a yellow terry robe.
Judith Goren, PhD, is a retired clinical psychologist whose poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies over the past four decades. She is the author of two volumes of poems: Coming Alive (Stone Press,1975) and Traveling toward the Heart (Ridgeway Press,1994), as well as a poetry chapbook (The Tao of Awakening, 1998) and a book of essays (Sharing the Journey: A Therapist Reﬂects on her Work, 2004). She is currently completing a memoir.
This waterfall unlocks Spring.
Here, the earth is fleshed
a hand leading us through snow
to the edge. We break
out of winger like green moss,
like that thread of a stream
spinning over that small rock.
Judith Minty is the author of 9 books of poetry. She is professor emerita of poetry at Humboldt State University in California, and has also taught at universities in Alaska, New York, Michigan, Nebraska, and Oregon. She was born and grew up in Michigan and lives in Muskegon near Lake Michigan with her dog, River.
Light’s Bright Lies
Tonight I leave the white electric hum
of streetlights, those killing globes that cause
moths their last thrusts of faith and delirium.
Dumb believers, starving for light, the gauze
of their dead wings covers my fingers with dust.
I’ve learned from them a daring trust
in darkness saves a life. Tonight I leave
the tease of light’s bright lies—
that led me, by its touch, to believe
I see. Walking through a dark field, my eyes
give in. Behind their lenses, in absence
of light, another aperture opens—the same sense
with which I watch in every sleep a life
inside my life take shape—as if another light
goes on beneath: a ship’s lamp scanning reefs
that reveals a cave once lost to sight.
In that world shines a silver streaking eel,
the real light, that burns by what it feels.
Robert Fanning is the author of American Prophet (Marick Press, 2009), The Seed Thieves (Marick Press, 2006) and Old Bright Wheel (Ledge Press Poetry Award 2003). His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The Atlanta Review, The Hawaii Review, and other journals. A professor of Creative Writing at Central Michigan University, Fanning’s writing awards include a Creative Artist Grant from ArtServe Michigan, the Inkwell Poetry Award, and the Foley Poetry Award. To read more about Robert Fanning and to see more of his poems, visit:robertfanning.com.
Linda Nemec Foster
There are birds that fly
under the rim of the world
giving it a push;
only a woman in childbirth
can hear their wings.
The sky fills with sun.
Stark branches stand
still, embrace snow,
and memorize the silhouette
of each lace-patterned
flake. The season’s embroidery.
Below the Surface
What lives below
the snow’s surface?
of blue wildflower:
sleeping in its name.
Initiation was previously published in Living in the Fire Nest by Linda Nemec Foster (Ridgeway Press, 1996)
New Year was previously published in Midwest Living (December, 2005)
Linda Nemec Foster is the author of nine collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk (finalist for the Ohio Book Award) and Listen to the Landscape (short-listed for the Michigan Notable Book Award). From 2003 – 2005, she was selected to be the first poet laureate of Grand Rapids. She is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College and currently is a member of the Series’ programming committee. Foster lived in Big Rapids from 1982 – 1987, and her daughter, Ellen, was born at Mecosta County General Hospital. The poem, “Initiation,” was inspired by this birthing experience and was written shortly afterward. Consequently, she submitted the poem to this project because of its connectedness to that singular event in Big Rapids. The other poems, “New Year” and “Below the Surface,” resonate with the themes of nature and our intricate relationship and response to it. The natural world we live in is truly an amazing place.