Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: chapbooks

Some Recent Publications

Six October Stones CoverI’m very happy to announce that my micro-chapbook Six October Stones is published by Origami Poems Project.

Like all of Origami Poems Project’s micro-chapbooks, this collection of six short poems woven into a longer poem is a free PDF download that can be folded into a very small chapbook using the instructions found on the site. Check it out!



Next up, I’m thrilled to share that the Take2 Guide to LOST is now available for download. This is a massive compendium of online writing about the ABC TV Series LOST, and it includes all of my LOST book club blog posts (explained and indexed here) as well as my reflections on “The End.” Yes, I really did read and blog about all the books that appeared on the show, and it’s nice to see all that collected with so much other fine LOST writing. More info here.


Finally, I’m proud to have had a poem featured at Autumn Sky Poetry Daily: “Made or Just Happened.” Do check it out if you haven’t already.

And, yes, I’m still putting finishing touches on Highway Sky and The Corner of Ghost & Hope. Things move slow.

Unthinkable Skies by Juliet Wilson

Juliet Wilson’s chapbook Unthinkable Skies (Calder Wood Press, 2010) sat atop the to-read stack for a long time, but I regularly picked it up and flipped to a random poem whenever I passed or when I had a spare moment or two. I don’t know why I read it this way except that after a while, I started to like the slow process of reading one poem and then putting the book down, letting the poem settle into me as I watched the dogs eat their dinner.

When I finally decided to sit down and read Unthinkable Skies all the way through, the poems I’d already read were waiting like recent acquaintances alongside the ones I had missed and the whole thing just got better and better as I progressed back and forth between the new and the familiar. Maybe that’s an odd way to read a book, but I rather enjoyed it and somehow the individual poems resonated more since this helped prevent their getting lost in the whole of a collection.

And what poems these are. Wilson displays a deep love for the natural world tinged with mourning for what has passed (“Passenger Pigeon”) though she manages this without resorting to hopelessness. Throughout, she writes eloquently about her concern not just for the loss of wild places and creatures, but how that impacts us humans, an idea powerfully described in “Lost Dances of the Cranes” in which she imagines future city dwellers watching old video and marveling at “the wonders the world once held.” It was hard not to see the great construction cranes that have dominated Austin’s skyline the past few years.

These poems are full of birds too, but one bird has been with me since I first read “Domesticated” a few weeks ago:  a pet goose, bound to earth by habit and domestication, wondering at the sound of wild geese flying overhead during migration:

Flightless and petted, you enjoy comforts
of home and hearth,


Winter air fills with honking
geese in joyful formation
high in unthinkable sky.


Later you puzzle over dreams
of endless blue and the steady beat of wings.

I feel for that goose. For my dogs that once were wolves. For all of us who every now and again might wish we could go back to swinging through the trees with our most distant ancestors. This isn’t to say that being civilized and having our modern human culture doesn’t have its perks (the internet, electric guitars), but with it we’ve disconnected from the natural world and Unthinkable Skies does a wonderful job exploring that disconnection and suggesting possibilities for reconnection.

Finally, these poems are full of space and silence. Space for a reader to enter into Wilson’s richly described world, to sit with her on a beach listening to shorebirds turn stones or reflect on the emptiness of a field after the birds have migrated. With that space, comes a reverent silence perfectly balanced between notes of mourning and wonder, a wonder that fills me as a reader with hope.  Unthinkable Skies reminds us that this Earth and all its creatures—even us apes—is beautiful and holy and in trampling it, we lose some deep and important part of ourselves.

Juliet Wilson blogs at Crafty Green Poet and Over Forty Shades, and she edits the wonderful online journal Bolts of Silk (where a few of my poems have appeared). You can buy Unthinkable Skies from Calder Wood Press. It’s a lovely little book and to my great surprise and delight it arrived here from Scotland only three days after I ordered it.

Here’s a video by Alastair Cook of Juliet reading her poem “Adrift” (h/t Moving Poems where I found the video).

Adrift from Alastair Cook on Vimeo.

Odes to Tools

There’s something enchanting about old tools. Not power tools, but rather the ones that require maybe a little sweat, a little swearing and more than a little skill to use. They’re the ones that live in sheds or hang in garages like old mysteries gathering dust and perhaps a little dulled but still so useful to the hand that knows how to wield them.

These tools are relics of a time when people still made things and made them well. In some cases, these tools made things and kept the world running before I was born. Made things I’ll never see and yet when I look at them and sometimes play with them (because that’s all I really know how to do) I imagine a world in which we didn’t throw things out the moment they broke.

My first hammer

There’s solidity to those old tools hanging around and still ready despite the shiny power tools that can do a job faster but will themselves be recycled long before they’ll ever be passed on. These are the tools I was given as a kid and the ones I inherited from my grandfather and my dad who I’ve assisted (because that’s all I’m good for when it comes to carpentry) on a few projects.

Dave Bonta’s new chapbook Odes to Tools (Phoenicia, 2010) has gotten me looking at and appreciating these old tools in my garage all over again. The poems originally appeared on Dave’s blog Via Negativa (you can still read them there) but in book form they become like the tools themselves, somehow sturdier in their stately analog elegance.

My favorite in the collection is the ode to one of my favorite tools, the coping saw, a tool I’ve used, misused and loved longer than most others. (What a glorious day it was when I learned I could replace that rusty old blade!) In Dave’s writing, this most space-hogging and least dense of tools becomes a jumping off point for examining ideas bigger than the tool itself, and the coping saw’s sturdy flexibility becomes a near-Taoist metaphor for the strength found in yielding, a certain wisdom in emptiness. From “Ode to a Coping Saw”:

Perhaps because it is flexible
& maneuverable


or because it encompasses
so much empty space

it copes.

It’s a fine collection, well worth multiple readings, and like the tools it celebrates, I suspect it will never stop working no matter how long it may sit on the shelf between reads.

a gnarled oak Review

Poet Sherry Chandler wrote a very nice review of my chapbook a gnarled oak over on her site.

For those who may not know, I made a chapbook as a holiday gift for family, friends and lucky blog readers who asked. It’s a collection of some of my micro-poems that have appeared on my other (micro-poetry) blog a gnarled oak over the past year. I cross post them on Twitter and for those who are into the social web.

Of the ones reserved for blog readers, I still have 2 left. If you’d like one, use the contact form to get in touch and tell me where to mail it.

Sherry posts her micro-poems on under the moniker Bluegrass Poet.

A Walk Through the Memory Palace

Welcome to the first stop on Read Write Poem’s latest virtual book tour. The touring chapbook is A Walk Through the Memory Palace (qarrtsiluni, 2009) by Pamela Johnson Parker. Memory Palace was the winner of the 2009 (and, I hope, first annual) qarrtsiluni chapbook contest, judged by guest judge Dinty Moore and managed by qarrtsiluni managing editors Beth Adams and Dave Bonta.

Moore chose an amazing manuscript and Adams and Bonta produced a lovely chapbook with cover art by Carrie Ann Baade. In addition to the paper copy, they created an online edition, which I really like since they eschewed the .pdf route and actually built a website, which is, in essence, an online book. You can also listen to Parker read her poems there, thus making the online edition something more than just a book posted online.

So, on to the book. I tend to start a book by thinking about its title and this one required a bit of research. A memory palace is a tool used for memorizing sequences and recalling memories. I did a quick walk through parts of the modern collective memory palace of the internet to come to an understanding of the term.

Based on reading at Wikipedia and a post on Litemind, it seems the basic idea is that in order to remember things, the memorist creates in her mind a visualization of a familiar place. By filling that map with objects and associating those objects with memories, she can walk through her memory palace and recall those memories. Sequences can be recalled by taking the same route through the memory palace that was taken when the memories were associated with the objects within the palace.

With this in mind, I found myself sitting back in my chair and allowing myself to walk through a house I lived it when I was growing up, trying to see things that were there. These objects led to stories and other associations from my memory and as I walked through this pre-constructed memory palace, I realized what a fascinating tool this could be for accessing the subconscious and developing a series of poems.

Perhaps this is how Parker began her project wherein she creates a beautifully wrought memory palace into which we are invited to enter. The poems are full of vivid images and the kind of precise and evocative diction that makes me want to reread. I think I’ve read most of these poems 3 times now over the past few months, but two stood out for me: “78 RPM” and “Some Yellow Tulips.” Both poems deal with the subject of memory and the way objects trigger those memories.

“78 RPM” masterfully captures a moment between two young lovers fooling around to the tune of a Billie Holiday record while the speaker’s aunt is outside. Parker captures the heat and intensity of this young lust moment with appropriate tension and sensual elegance:

Heart rising and
Falling like Billie’s
Song, cool water poured

To the top, brimming,
Then spilling silver
Notes, and his lips

On yours for —
The stylus bumps
Its paste-paper

Center; you hear
The screen door’s
Thump against its

Frame, hear Aunt’s
High heels tick
Across the porch.

I found it easy to lose myself in the moment and expected a different response from the aunt than the one Parker shows us. I felt as if the aunt knew what was going on, and understanding the futility of stopping the hormones from a-raging, simply offered iced tea “for this heat.”

If “78 RPM” is a poem about memories of heat, then “Some Yellow Tulips” is about memories of fire. In this powerful piece we find a holocaust survivor tending her garden with a kind of military precision. Parker uses words like ruthless and blitzkrieg to describe Mrs. Sonnenkratz at work in her garden, imposing order on her flowers and the world around her, but despite her best efforts it is only an illusion:

She smokes and shakes and smokes. Each flowerbed’s
As neat as graves. She stubs out ash. The heads

Of these tulips wore bright turbans, tight-wrapped
And now unwrapping. In Berlin, she was slapped:

Sie ist ein Jude… Dry-eyed in Dachau, how
She’s crying over bulbs bloomed too far now.

In a world of absence, presence leaves a scar.
Each tulip’s ravelled to a six-point star.

Despite what I imagine to be a beautiful garden, Parker’s use of words like smoke, graves, and ash suggests someone unable to escape the hellish memory palace that is the holocaust as each flower in her garden triggers these terrible memories despite her best efforts to control and retain them.

The whole poem is about control and our inability to truly control and put away that which we might wish to forget, and I wonder if that is one reason this poem alone is written in metered rhyme.

I suppose as a reviewer I’m supposed to offer some criticism or talk about something I didn’t like in the book, but it was hard to come up with anything. There were a few that didn’t speak to me immediately (“Archaic Fragments” and “Unreal Gardens Without Toads in Them”) but that’s more a matter of my tastes than Parker’s abilities as a poet.

Other highlights include “Breasts” a brilliant meditation on the way the past predicts the future in terms of the speaker’s family history with breast cancer, and “Reading Keats in a Japanese Garden” wherein we see beauty as transitory and almost more beautiful for that.

Good stuff, all around. Now go order yourself a copy because the print version is beautiful (and not transitory) or read it online. Either way, it will be time well spent and you’ll find yourself looking forward to the next time you walk through this particular memory palace.

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the tour:

Feb. 2 — Daniel Romo at Peyote Soliloquies
Feb. 4 — Jill Crammond Wickham at Jillypoet
Feb. 9 — Lawrence Gladeview at Righteous Rightings
Feb. 11 — Sarah J. Sloat at The Rain in My Purse
Feb. 16 — Nathan Landau at Poems About Nothing in Particular
Feb. 18 — Dave Jarecki at Dave Jarecki
Feb. 20 — David Moolten at Edible Detritus

© 2018 Coyote Mercury

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: