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According to family stories, where we are “from” is a skein of yarn bound tightly around a wooden spool. The yarn is so plentiful that the shape of the skein is no longer oblong but rather more spherical. We are from Chuluota, Florida; from Richmond Hill, New York; Toronto, Canada; Croydon, England; Georgetown, Guyana; New Amsterdam, Guyana; Crabwood Creek, Berbice; Chennai, Tamil Nadu; Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh; Allahabad, UP; Patna, Bihar. After all of the yarn is unraveled, there is no...

Sometimes I wonder if I would choose the life of a freelance poet again - a life that means never feeling secure in a practical sense, a life that means never having a holiday or vacation with pay or even a steady paycheck or pension plan. Right now I am working on completing a 35th year anniversary issue of Lips, a poetry magazine I founded and still edit. Though because it has never had university or corporate sponsorship, I have never received a salary for it because, frankly,...

An epidemic of deaths hit our family over the five years beginning in 2010. I lost three brothers, a niece, an aunt, two grand-nieces, and a grand-nephew. The youngest to die was one month old, and the oldest had just passed his fifty-sixth birthday. The door to my writing life cracked open to let death in as I tried to make sense of each new loss. Some of that writing became elegies published in the Summer 2015 issue of Mezzo Cammin.

So why does death, or the fear of it,...

Our Baroque Sustenance by Dan Chelotti

When I was learning how to let poems be poems, I had meaning difficulties. As we learn to read poetry, this is a big problem: the facts shroud us from the mystery of the subject. Students often cry: “if I could only put a little bow on every little fact about poetry, compartmentalize them away into storage, and pull them out the next time I need to write a term paper.” But, alas, poems don’t like to be put into storage. Poems want to be draped over every living thing, and then they...

Odd coinage, “blog.” Because of the consonants, maybe, connotatively echoing blah, blob, bog, fog—all blah and meh and open, lax slack sound, texturally yielding and passive, amorphously maybe moist (a word frequently topping lists of most-disliked words), slogging through a bog.  Then there’s trog as in -lodyte. Old media “cavemen” were often named Og—which means “and” in Old Norse. But in Old Irish it means “egg” or “testicle”: and in Kunjen, a Paman language spoken on the Cape York...

Another Writing Lesson

Early in the second summer I worked at Mt. Hope, we buried a woman on a Saturday.  Monday morning first thing, a taxicab entered the main gate and proceeded to West Memorial, an older section fringed in sycamore and pines.  A short, heavyset man in flip-flops, shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt paid the driver and found a bench close to Saturday’s grave.  We on the crew assumed him to be the widower, visiting his wife.  He sat on the bench throughout the day, adjusting himself occasionally.  He...

Illustration by Jessica Mercado

                       The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?



                       That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
                      That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.


I started writing poems the first time I read contemporary poetry, in seventh grade. That is when I remember thrilling to Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. Not Shakespeare or Tennyson or Poe with their antique diction and fair ladies—rather, a woman who spoke to me and who made me want to talk back. The germ of my new book, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory, began, perhaps, four years after that, when the advisor of my high-school literary magazine suggested an addition...



Begin with the naming of things.

“Prairie,” from French via the Vulgar Latin

prataria and further back to the Latin pratum,

meaning “meadow.” And the mound itself,

called by geologists a roche mountonếe

a bedrock knob shaped but not leveled

by the last Pleistocene glacier.


But long before these names, known to the Omaha,

Oto and Yankton Lakota as Paha Wakan,


One question I ask other writers is what sounds stimulate their writing––silence, electronica, mud pools, rain showers, foreign film soundtracks, a woman in the next room boiling water. This is because I have a particular kind of synesthesia, known as chromesthesia, in which many pieces of music I hear are twinned with distinct visual experiences. There are exceptions, and in those cases, the sounds can induce a full range of emotional responses with no visual complements. Occasionally,...


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