at the new year

woman gazing outward, swb, 2018

This year started off dragging a long bag of the last with it. I have been slow to drop it behind me. Especially when the bag included a veritable stream of rejections received the first week of this year for pieces sent with high hopes in the second half of 2017.

I needed to regroup. Hence, for instance, the uploading of a new sub-page under ‘Creative Endeavors’ (collage).

But the new year brings with it lovely surprises, as well. Such as hearing from a favorite poet that you have been accepted into her 2018 Poetry Intensive Workshop. Yep, you read that right! Marge Piercy  — who only wants ’12 serious poets’ to work with in her coveted workshop —  chose me as one of them.

The new year is looking brighter already. Perhaps it’s time to start that collection from my recent trip to Portugal; to polish up some of my earlier attempts at more public (political) pieces; to sort through accumulated poem drafts and consolidate, trash or face-lift the old … and generally, to remember that rejection is not a statement of whether or not one ‘should’ write. It’s just a goad to keep on doing so.

As Marge writes in the final stanza of her powerful ‘At the New Moon’ from “The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme,” Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1999:

Let the half day festival of the new moon
remind us how to retreat and grow strong, how to
reflect and learn, how to push our bellies forward,
how to roll and turn and pull the tides up, up
when we need them, how to come back each time
we look dead, making a new season shine.

St. Francis

Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi, Italy

 

In the month of October we remember Francis of Assisi, the saint who answered Christ’s call to “repair my church.” Above all, St. Francis stands as one who … boldly challenged a world obsessed with power and status, and a church that conformed to such values. Those today who pursue the cause of peace, who stand with the poor, who engage in respectful dialogue with other faiths, or defend the Earth and its creatures, are following in Francis’ path … a way of kindness, gentleness, and humility that could truly repair our world, which is evidently falling into ruin.

This appeared in my inbox this morning from Orbis Books, the publisher of HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write which I co-edited in 2013. By coincidence, earlier this week I received a copy of Colere, A Journal of Cultural Exploration published annually by Coe College. They just published my poem, ‘The Tomb of St. Francis.’

Tomb of St. Francis of Assisi at the Basilica

The Tomb of St. Francis
Assisi, Italy

They come, pilgrims of every shade
in bright red-orange prints, with canes
their grayed heads bound in matching cloth
eyes encased in winkled brown.

Dread-locked youth, his lengths spilling
over dirty blond pack as he kneels,
falls to the stone step marking
the edge of adoration for the deceased.

A lanky dark-haired youth
in plain white tee and tattered jeans
pulls the iron grate tight to heaving chest
entwines hand, arm, head bowed in prayer;

then rises, damp-eyed, whispers, croons,
his body speaking anguish, joy
at this momentous meeting
faith and love lived large

as his beloved Saint before him,
example of the living word
that permeates the air, the bones
of ancient-walled Assisi.

‘The Tomb of St. Francis’ by Sarah W. Bartlett, in Colere Journal of Cultural Exploration, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA, 2018

new poem acceptance

Aside

Dos Gatos Press is releasing its third POETRY OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST anthology early in 2018. Each poem in this new collection is precisely 100 words long. And they accepted my “Lonesome Boy-Cow,” inspired by our spring trip to Taos and a breath-taking sunset drive toward the mountains.

In accepting the poem, one of the editors wrote: “Sarah, we LOVE THE DESERT SCENE HERE.’

Moreover, following a brief interaction resulting in a modest tweak of the title and one word, he wrote “It is such a pleasure to work with writers who don’t get defensive (and aggressive) with an editor.”

Gotta say, I don’t generally get this kind of feedback from editors. You can imagine I was equally appreciative in my responses. A feel-good day all around.

portrait of a morning

credit – jim hester

Although today is sunny, bright and breezy – even coolish with essentially no humidity – I am sharing a poem written yesterday during the Poetry Marathon. As you’ll see from the certificate, I signed up for and duly completed the Half Marathon. Twelve poems in 12 hours. I think the 24-hour version must be utterly grueling, because I’ll admit, there were hours (a new prompt is posted every hour on the hour and you create/post your response within that hour) – well, two or three – when I didn’t feel tired so much as devoid of words. And yet, there are 12 entries on my page!

The prompt for this poem was to write a four-stanza poem, using a line from the first in each of the others. For starters, it was great fun to see how people interpreted this prompt differently. As for my own experience, I loved the challenge of the structure to bring the poem full circle – and have it make sense!

The slow drizzle of gray-turned-rain
laps gently on the canvas covered deck
tapping its own rhythm to the quiet continuo
of Corinthian chimes muting the wind

the slow drizzle of gray-turned-rain
sliding off branch and rail, soaking
the thirsty ground as yellow finches
and the occasional hummer in search of food

lap gently on the canvas covered deck,
the day’s rhythms of hunger and its filing
marking the passage of hours, staging
the shape of a day. Downhill the new house rises

tapping its own rhythm to the quiet continuo
of our life here, its shape and pace
undisturbed by change, though
change unfolds all around us.

swb

soil

WordPress Daily Prompt for July 18, 2017:

I spent much of the last two days with my hands in dirt. This is the kind of thing  only someone with obsessive tendencies, extreme motivation, or who is retired, would undertake. Yesterday it was pulling weeds – read grass, dandelions, and other assorted volunteers – which persist in populating the loose-stone-covered parking pull-out. Today it was multiple seasons’ worth of snow-plowed stone from the drive, layered and hiding in deep pockets in the ragged grass.

Now, this is a simple summer place. I have no opinion about the merits of grass in the rocks where I park my car, per se. But I AM highly motivated to prevent another mouse infestation in any part of the car whatever. [We’ll need to wait for a relevant WP Prompt to hear this tale.] And our ‘lawn’ is neither manicured nor fully grass. However, I do take umbrage at the shift of stone from drive to yard, on principle.

So yesterday was spent in the incredibly tedious task of pulling up small and large clumps of grass, one at a finger-pinched time, to ensure that all roots were fully removed. Masses of them covering just about every parkable inch of space available to my car. Today, it was the even more tedious task of liberating stone – ultimately, two wheelbarrow loads – from the grassy depths where it had piled and gathered over too many years. Each summer the vague notion of reuniting this errant collection of stone with its foundational partners has occurred to me. THIS year I acted upon it. Continue reading