Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Elie Wiesel’s DAWN, my Tears, and a Baby’s Smile

Dear Reader,

The words of the novel Dawn, by Elie Wiesel, affected me as much, or more, than its content. As in Night, Wiesel writes with pointed prose, much the way a poet does. There are no superfluous words. There is only repetition with purpose. His sentences are taut but not tight. His poetry invites me to participate in his narrator’s disgust, struggle, fear, and forced numbness. He asked that I sob with his victim’s good humor even though he has no idea why he is supposed to die.

I did what he asked.  And tears fell on the baby in my arms, my 3-month old granddaughter.  She looked into my eyes and smiled.


What’s an ARTObiography? Read STORM OF THE i to find out

Dear Reader,

Tina Collen’s Storm of the i: An Artobiography is an autobiography/memoir that is:

  • Satisfyingly heavy (a compact paperback weighing as much as a hard-core tabletop book),
  • Densely appointed (composed of luscious illustrations; touching, humorous, and/or clever photos; pop-ups; foldouts; cutouts; and other surprises),
  • Beyond creatively designed (the author is also a visual artist with a strong graphic design background), and
  • Compellingly written (utilizing journal entries, hers and others’ poetry, snippets of letters, casually written notes, song lyrics, and personal narrative).

Collen’s words keep the reader asking questions like:

  • What is Collen going to discover next?
  • What is her problem with her father?
  • What is her father’s problem with her?
  • Is there really a problem between them, or is she just imagining it?
  • Will her perceptions change as the book progresses?
  • Will she change as person as a result of writing this book?
  • Will she accept responsibility for who she was and is, or will she just cast blame?
  • Why was she driven to write this book?
  • Will I, the reader, change as a result of reading this book?

How did Storm of the i affect me?

  • I began to urge myself to explore my creativity/thoughts through making colleges.
  • I re-remembered that I want to try sculpting with clay.
  • I realized I’ve used the excuse of not being a trained artist to keep me from making art.
  • I began to question my assumptions about the meanings behind “hurtful” things my parents said in my past.
  • I wondered how other women might learn about themselves through combining visual art and writing.

Dear reader, Storm of the i is an experience you’ll want to share with (buy for–you’ll want to keep your copy) people you love.




If you’d like to see a bit more about how Artobiography came into existence click here.

To purchase a personally autographed copy of Storm of the i go to

(In the comment box include how you’d like it signed.) Books are also available at Barnes & Noble, Borders and Amazon. If your favorite bookstore doesn’t have it on the shelf, they can order it for you.

Tina Collen is giving an autographed book away in a contest, asking people to leave a comment answering this question:

Oftentimes the objects we hold onto contain cryptic clues that point towards something deeper about ourselves. Take a look around your house (or your room) at the things with which you have surrounded yourself. Is there anything you are still hanging onto that seems to contain a hidden message for you? What do you think it is?


“What we are doing on the beach is looking for the memory of a corpse. But there is no sense of him here for there is no sense of debt.”  Daniel Swift, Bomber County

Dear Reader,

I bought Bomber County because I’d read a review about it in The New York Times and couldn’t believe a book featuring poetry was getting this kind of press. Intrigued, I opened the book, eager to read poetry I wouldn’t have otherwise read. Well, I did read poetry, but not enough; I closed the book hungry for more. And that’s okay, because I will now look for the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Randall Jarrell, Cecil Day-Lewis, and others.

Swift uses poetry as an organization tool, but he doesn’t drown the text in poetry. But what’s there is easy-to-understand, and it talks about flying, death, and war.

I credit Swift’s poetic (concise) writing style as being the carrot that led me through his deeply researched and copious war details: dates; locales; WWII and WWI history; and information about flying, bombing, and the workings of aircraft I often say I learn history despite myself.) Readers interested in the Royal Air Force will not be disappointed.

“The cemeteries daydream of order.”  Daniel Swift

I wish Swift every success with his unusual and interesting book.

What Backstreet Boys, Joe Cocker, and Justin Timberlake Do to Me

Dear Reader,

I have to tell you what’s going on right now. I’m supposed to be writing a direct mail letter, but I can’t focus because I’m listening to my 22-year-old daughter sing the Backstreet Boys’ song “Everybody” (Denniz PoP, Max Martin, 1997) while she paints my bathroom. I’m wriggling in my seat as she bellows, “Everybody, rock your body. Everybody, rock your body right. Backstreet’s back, alright.” My daughter’s happy again. Happy. She’s back in 7th grade, crushing over Nick Carter, and prodding her dad and me to take her to Florida so she can bump into him on the street. Like a coupon fiend, she’s cutting photos of the boys. “If you want it to be good, girl, get yourself a… bad boy.”

Now I’m YouTubing Joe Cocker singing “Cry Me a River” during his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. “Now you said that you love me after being so untrue. I want you to cry (cry me a river). I want you to cry (cry me a river) … Oh, I cried a river over you.” (Arthur Hamilton, 1953) Unlike “Everybody,” “Cry Me a River” doesn’t send me to the past, as I have no past with it. But Joe Cocker’s performance makes me want. Now! I want his shredded voice as my passion, his syncopation as the force that jars my poems from complacency, and his spark as a trigger that mushrooms my poetic courage.

My daughter has finished with the bathroom and has begun to paint her former bedroom. I’m back to wriggling in my seat, this time to Justin Timberlake singing, “I’m bringing sexy back. Them other boys don’t know how to act. I think it’s special what’s behind your back. So turn around and I’ll pick up the slack.” (Nathaniel Hills, Tim Mosley, Justin Timberlake, 2002) I’m happy too!

Respectfully Yours,

The Editor

Half Mast: 9/11/2001

Dear Reader,

Eight years ago the skies over my house went beautifully silent; only bird wings split the air. Eight years ago I brought a bag of snacks to Boulder Bonfils Blood  Center, combined them with grocery carts full of already donated juice, crackers, cookies, and bottled water. A line of whispery calm blood donors wound around the block. Eight years ago I raised my first American flag, phoned my love to my brother Steve, a WI fire fighter, paced with unhelpfulness.  My need to do something led me to start to write:

Half Mast


for fire, its appetite only paralleled by man

for men and women crushed by duty

for the lone shoe on the sidewalk

for evil and blind allegiance

for fatherless children waiting

for agony only known

in a flicker before death

Half mast

for casual goodbyes

for those never said

for “I love you” over a phone

for the millions who scream “no!”

for pink innocence turned to ash

for a vase of flowers left on a desk

for mothers stopped from bearing life

Half mast

for tears

for horror

for compassion

Half mast

for blood pulled from volunteers’ veins

for a stranger’s body another’s shield

for prayers unanswered

for twisted reason

for empty graves

for food on firefighters’ lips

for the badge on a dead officer’s chest

Half mast

for struggling pilots

for fighting passengers

for irony

for un-reached destinations

for fear crawling through sleep

for shovels, cranes, pails, hands

for souls deserving peace

for dying alone

for unheard hearts

Half mast

for dust

for steel

for cement

for flesh

for love

for black

for light

Half mast

for burning candles

for loved ones’ paper smiles

for corpses unidentified

Half mast

for a god

for a belief

Half mast

for surviving


(From Scarf Dancer, available at


More Than A Drug Addict: Glen’s Letter To God

Dear Reader,

Glen O. wrote the following letter while he was in a drug rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado.

Dear God,

Thank you for my moment of sobriety, this moment

Thank you for the dirty toilets and my desire to clean them

Thank you for my heart that wants to love and be loved and isn’t afraid to love

Thank you for every woman you have placed in my path

Thank you for the breath I take, and the miracle of my human body

Thank you for my children, Paul and Hannah

Thank you for the God spirit in me that wants to be reborn, that wants to be a man

Thank you for my mind and the talents and the forgiveness of who I am

Thank you for my sense of humor and willingness to see the humanity in me

Thank you for my addictions and the special yearning and seeking challenges they present

Thank you for another chance to get back up here at safe harbor

Thank you for the forgiveness and mercy I feel through your love

Thank you for the belief that pushes me to find something to believe in

Thank you for this world and the resolve around me

Thank you for my loneliness

Thank you for everything I haven’t thanked you for

But especially thank you for right now, this moment of doubt, faith, fear, confusion, love, anger; many of these emotions are states that were within me that let me know that I am still alive and that it isn’t over yet

I’m still alive, that it isn’t over yet

That I still want to grow and not just exist, that I still have a mission and purpose for which I am blind

Thank you Oh Lord for the possibilities


(©Sept. 2002)

Glen died in a crack house two weeks after he wrote this letter. His friends glow with Glen-ness whenever they talk about him. His outrageous  sense of humor, his artistic genius, his innate need to  go all out.

Glen wasn’t an addict. He was addicted to drugs.

Dear Glen,

It isn’t over yet. You still exist.

You still exist.



Claudia Emerson’s poem “Drought,” from LATE WIFE

Dear Reader,

I continue to post my favorite poems in honor of National Poetry Month. Today’s poem is “Drought,” from Claudia Emerson’s 2006 Pulitzer Prize winning volume of poetry, Late Wife (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2005).

The clarity in this poem stuns me, its quick dive into my gut catches me off guard. Its meaning forbids translation, at least by me. And its nature imagery—“still air cleft by their repeating patterns”—clings to me, inspires me. (Maybe I’ll once again try to write a poem about what happens to me when I watch Swainson’s hawks perform in thermal spirals. I’ll share it with you when it’s finished.) I wonder if this poem will affect you. Its sounds parch my throat.

(I apologize for how the poem is formatted here. Emerson intends it to appear in 8 two-line stanzas, with a indent on every second line. The / indicates where the second line should begin.)


I began to understand/      its severity when glassy

crows came shameless, panting at last/     to the birdbath, and when the locusts

fell to the ground, another failed/     crop. The street lay empty all day,

and the river grew thinner, its spine/     showing through. Only butterflies

thrived—the still air cleft by their/     repeating patterns, the feathering

wings of swallowtails, monarchs;/     I learned from their bright emersion

to rely, for a while, only/     on the eye, the dry horizon.