Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Poem: Andrew Miller



I write letters of admiration to the moon.
We correspond:
A crater for a scar. A sea for a bruise.


The elm trees are dying of a Dutch disease
that bears their names.
The wind administers it like a syringe,

so his hands found me gently in our first room.


There is a hospital train
full of amputees
vanishing into the mouth of a tunnel
in the Alps.

You are an orderly.
And you a patient.
And you an engineer.

Soon we will come out the other side of the mountain.

Beautiful as a hospital, the moon awaits.
It is the tattoo he carved himself
slowly above my elbow.


I am the driver.

We are coming to a town
where the children eat candy
the size of the skulls of children.

The stars have nothing to add.
The elms are those who waited too long.

It takes everything to leave a man.
Nothing to divorce him.
He arrives in the faces of my sons.


If a man replaces himself with a knife...
If a man replaces himself with a roll of dimes...
If bits of glass shine in your skin...
If you wake far from where you were standing....

You are here.

~ Andrew Miller received my MFA in poetry from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1997, where he studied with Larry Levis, and then later Gerald Stern and Ellen Bryant Voigt. His poems have appeared in the Massachusetts Review, Shenandoah, and The New Orleans Review. In 2002 he was awarded the Runes Prize for Mystery and two of his poems have been nominated for Push Cart Prizes.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Three Photos: John Craig


~ John Craig is regular contributor to Elegant Thorn Review. You can view many more of his images at his Flickr site. You can also find him at his blog.

Poem: Scott Edward Anderson


"Healing, not saving." ~ Gary Snyder

"Healing, not saving," for healing
indicates corrective, reclaiming

restoring the earth to its bounty,
to right placement and meaning--

Forward thinking, making things new
or better or, at least, bringing back

from the edge. The way
bulbs are nestled in earth,

starting to heal again--
the way a wound heals.

Keep warm. Sun following
rain; rain following drought.

Perhaps we have come far enough
along in this world to start

healing, protecting from harm,
from our disjunctive lives.

The way the skin repairs with a scab,
injury mediated by mindfulness.

The bark of the "tree of blood"
heals wounds we cannot see.

Deliver us from the time of trial
and save us from ourselves.

~ Scott Edward Anderson was a Concordia Fellow and poet-in-residence at the Millay Colony for the Arts in November 2002. His work received the Nebraska Review Award in 1997 and the Aldrich Emerging Poets Award in 1998. His poetry has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, The Cortland Review, Cross Connect, Isotope, River Oak Review and Terrain, among other publications. He is a founding editor of Ducky Magazine (

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Three Poems: Kristin Berger


Her grip closes full round
the thin quill of bamboo
reaching to shoot apart
from the grove that clusters
along the riverbank – a trill of leaves
that will not shake free,
no matter how much she leans
her new, upright weight
against this green peer,
a wild wrestling
in the wet woods

like the fresh page found
exposed on the desk, she slashes
a black ballpoint mark
across the words' unfinished face

-- make poem, too, mama

she tosses and trains
the stalk to her will,
pricks open the batted sky
to a high blue,
a remnant of rain inking
the uncleaved space
in perfect arcs

young master, envious control.

* * * * *

Open Water
for Cindy

Your migratory route winds
like the loud brown crowd of geese
that settles on the black water
filling in with cattails, drowned root-balls,
wild rice, the ones always feeding
and never seeming to leave. Always
open water. The vein of Black River,
that life-line you trace, palm to steering wheel,
circling firetrails, sliding out,
turning back upon old, rutted tracks,
learning the script of a homing will,
of becoming your own wild white bird
that startles with its spearing neck
a quicksilver knot of minnows,
conspicuous in the shallows like a birch
de-leafed after that first hard autumn wind.
In the storm, you remain.
Tannin-stained. You revolve around pain
fingering the cold whorl, avoiding at first,
a habitual getting-to-know later – it stays
with you for as long as birds have wings,
which is to say, we recognize their coming
beyond the thick spruce and hidden grouse,
before their black bills part the morning fog,
when their pursuit of halo and snail
is a constant ache in your bones, playing you,
plucking tendons like lily cords,
a cello water-song.
Tar-necked and wise, they flock
to the center of the depths
where the current never slackens
under ice, the only swirling place
the dark notes know as home.

* * * * *


I am meant to live like a bird,
wings tucked into that sacred cleft
neatly next to beating breast,
a barbed cage containing this restlessness
for the last white grub
under the dank rock, the last meal
before joining the millions
in their quaking lullaby,
wings crooning noon and night,
leaving the holly, the currant,
the cones that clot boughs
packed with seeds like secrets,
as if these birds needed bribes,
a keep-here song,
were my kin,
as if these birds knew
to return to the ferns beneath my window,
that I waited, thumbing crackers
left in my dry pockets,
wings folded, gaining strength

~ Kristin Berger lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and writes poetry, essays, and fiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Poetry Journal, The Comstock Review, and others, and online at,,, and

"Stalk" previously appeared online last spring.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Two Poems: Janet A. Baker

The Door

“The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar.”
~ William Wordsworth

There is something I can’t see
through my door to the other side
with streaks of silver coming through the varnish
streaks of silver showing through names and titles
stuck on my soul’s door

Let me see the knob and who it is who says,
“Look, there is the wrong name on your door.”

I am peeling the labels stuck on my door,
picking them off with my fingernails.

And the star says, it’s time to peel all labels
all varnishes veneers writing languaging

but new words sprinkle themselves
faster than I can catch them on the screen of soul

I keep falling off the treetops landing back
on earth whenever I attempt ascension.
Yet there are ladders upward to the sky

and the star says sit wait listen hear
and peel the varnish off the shining door.
Remove the words that aren’t yours.

What does it open to? I ask.
What is my true space my holy place my office?
I write: It is a room of starlight and pure being.

I ask for glimpses. I write: You have glimpses--
they are streaks of silver in the wood itself.
They can’t be peeled away.

Star, I ask you to come down through my pen,
inky blackness of the liquid night sky.
I write: Sky and stars aren’t what we think they are.

Sky is not black at night but dark blue
dissolving into ink pouring into my pen
the stars are liquid gold flowing down.

Tell me completely teach me to listen to feel you.
I hear the doves coo and the highway rumble
numinous freedom to love again throbbing.

Buddha throbs in meditation. The eyes yes undulate.
The body as one heart throbs at once,
gives and receives at once.

It was like stardust in an old hand undertook me
coming through from where my soul began.

* * * * *

The Holy Ones

I’d like to stop missing my own clan and my own tribe
so much. I don’t even know their names or their ways.

But someone way way back must have raised sheep,
spun and woven, and passed the patterns of the gods
into the minds of her children

passed an image that would always come out right
--Holy Ones in the corn and everything
in sacred colors, directions, stones.

What pattern comes from my mind,
from my long life and every thing I’ve known?
What is at last worth something to others?

I have seen Patience, fiber by fiber
carding the wool before she begins
to make yarn of it, sitting on clean dirt
in the hot sun, smiling and toothless.

I have woven my whole life into my poems.
I still don’t know the image of my Holy Ones.
I couldn’t have written this when I was young.

~ Janet Baker lives in Encinitas, CA. This is her first appearance in Elegant Thorn.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Poet Couples

In honor of Valentine's Day, the Academy of American Poets posted this article on famous poet couples.

"All My Poems Are Love Poems": When Two Poets Fall In Love
by Craig Morgan

Profiles of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall; Interviews with C. D. Wright and Forrest Gander and Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop.

Love poetry is about as old as love itself, from Homer’s vision of Penelope’s steadfastness, to the biblical Song of Solomon, to Shakespeare’s sonnets for his Dark Lady (or, some speculate, Dark Lord), to Keats’s love songs for his own depression. Most poets, at one time or another, write their way into the hearts of their chosen lasses or lads, but sometimes something slightly more unusual happens: two poets fall in love with each other.

Now, one can say a lot of things about those who choose to dedicate their lives to poetry: they are passionate, bookish, impulsive, self-obsessed, boring, unique, obsessive, and often unstable. So when two poets fall in love, something interesting is bound to happen. Like all romances, things might go well, they might not, or, most likely, there’ll be a mix of both. Unlike most romances, however, when two poets hook up, it almost always leads to poetry.

Contemporary poet-couples join a long tradition. In 1846, the Victorian dramatic monologist Robert Browning married the gifted poet Elizabeth Barrett. The Browning’s 15-year marriage yielded some of the best-loved poems in the English language: his "Fra Lippo Lippi" and her Sonnets From The Portuguese, among others. The great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova had an ill-fated marriage to the young poet Nikolai Gumilyov. W. H. Auden fell into a fiery, at times damaging, romance with the poet Chester Kallman, who was fourteen years his junior. Their relationship produced many collaborations, including the libretto to Stravinsky’s famous The Rake’s Progress.

More recently, former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass married avant-garde hero Brenda Hillman. The union of the influential James Tate and Dara Wier has propelled the University of Amherst MFA program for years. Countless poets have fallen in love, shared, and sometimes ruined, each other’s lives.

Read the rest.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Interview: Tim J Brennan

The second in what I hope will be an ongoing series of interviews with working poets features a regular contributer to Elegant Thorn Review, Tim Brennan. ETR is fortunate to have posted several of his poems over that last months, and he has been kind enough to answer my five questions. But first, a poem.

just questions

when the sun stops outside
her window, or at least seems to,
is how my mother now lives her life:
tuesday is wednesday
thursday is tuesday;
everyday is starched
like her white sheets

there are no prints in a hospital
even the ones on her fingers
were fading the last time i looked

mother always says just fine
when asked how things are going,
even though her life has been scarred by
are you feeling any better today? men
who actually go home to wives
wearing perfume, recently bathed,
and waiting on printed satin sheets,
offering candle light kisses, and whispering
questions other than will you comb my hair
one more time, russ? what day is it?

in the last one hundred days
i have often wondered
is this you? pinned
to the bed like some kind
of displayed butterfly

your voice when i don’t look
still my mother’s voice
when i was seven and
somehow a withered dandelion
was on our red checkered tablecloth:

will you put it in water,
timmy, before it dies?

* * * * *

1. How did you come to poetry, and how or when did you decide that you are a poet?

I’ve always been interested in writing. I used to rewrite horror stories when I was a kid, inserting my friends as characters in the stories. I loved writing. I had great teachers who exposed me to all kinds of writing. I didn’t find poetry serious until college where again I had great teachers who put good poetry in front of me and turned me loose. I was a voracious reader in those days and digested many poets. I wrote poetry in college, but it was mostly fluff stuff. I didn’t have the experience necessary to translate it to paper. After college, I didn’t write any poetry for twenty years. I didn’t write much of anything.

I guess I decided I was a poet when, on a whim, I sat down and wrote a poem about my mother and sent it off to a local calling for poems. I don’t even know what prompted me to do that. Anyway, the editor liked my poem, put it in her publication, and introduced me to her writing group. I’ve been with the writing group now for about 10 years and they’ve all been very helpful, especially with my poetry and my plays. Along with my poetry, I’ve had short plays produced in six states. Writing plays and writing poetry is very similar to me. They each need a voice. It’s up to me to find that voice when I feel I may have something to say that other people might be interested in hearing. Lines on a page become voice when read, be it a character in a play or a poetical voice.

2. Who are some of your favorite poets and why?

I like the poem more than the poet. If it’s good, it doesn’t matter who wrote it. It also depends on my mood...different strokes for different days...something like that. But to answer your question, I do appreciate a guy like ee cummings. When I was introduced to cummings, it was like a window opened. I’m not very conventional. I like to run thoughts into thoughts, not necessarily at random, but in ways to force the reader to make decisions in his or her reading. cummings was a master at that. I like Dave Etter. He’s a midwestern poet who I was lucky enough to have a beer with and talk to about poetry. He doesn’t waste words, and I like that. I like Charles Simic (who doesn’t?). I like Stafford, Levine, etc. There are soooo many really good poets. Like I said, give me a good poem before you give me a name. The poem should lead to the author, not vice-versa.

3. What is your process for writing?

I carry around a notebook with me all the time. I write things down, an image, a piece of conversations, a new word...whatever. I write much of my poetry in my head. That is to say, when I flash on something that I think is meaningful, I play with it in my head for quite awhile before trying to put it to paper...or I’ll jot it down in my notebook so I don’t forget the connection. Generally, I’m a sit down and write the poem kind of guy. Most of my stuff is generated in one sitting. I’ll play with it later. I’m constantly editing and revising. I also like looking at a stimulus. One of the internet poetry groups I belong to uses this method, and I like it. It helps get the juices flowing. A good golfer will head to the range with a bucket of range balls and practice for an hour...I don’t see why writing should be any different. I write many more bad poems than good ones, but the practice makes me appreciate the good ones more. One someone else likes something I've written, it's pure gravy.

4. How do you define "spiritual poetry," or what do you look for in a spiritual poet?

“Spiritual poetry” is real. It must say something, point out something, comment on something, and transfer that something in such a way that the reader benefits. But it must be real, and it must be from the heart. James Wright was a good example of a spiritual poet. His stuff was brutally honest. Poets like Carlos Williams, Brooks, Donald Hall (and his wife Jane Kenyon) are all spiritual poets. Bukowski was not a spiritual poet. He was a realist, but his poetry wasn’t real. Robert Bly is another. Great poet, but not a spiritual poet. Too self-centered. Too ego-centric. A spiritual poet doesn’t preach. He or she leads the reader to his or her truth, his or her reality, and lets the reader decide. I'm learning to do this, but it's hard (see above...practice. And more practice).

5. What are you reading these days in the area of poetry? Any books or poets you would like to recommend?

Any of the names I’ve already mentioned are worth reading. And if you have read them, but it’s been awhile, read them again. With the internet, any good poet is within reach. I like reading biographies (e.g. Wiesel, Vonnegut. Even Studs Turkel). For pure visual stimulation, Shakespeare is still hard to beat. Getting insight into how other people think is a great way to expand and understand one’s own philosphy.

~ Tim Brennan lives in Austin, MN.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Two Poems: Michael Estabrook


warm breezes this morning
rustling trees surround me

(welcome relief after
the lightening of last night)

waves slap the shore in
greater staccato

clouds hang massive
and motionless as dead elephants

gulls flap quietly their wings
sounding like wind hitting sails

they swoop down fishing
as fishing boats
move slowly on the horizon

It feels like eternity here
outside Linda’s room

on this immense bank
overlooking Lake Michigan

* * * * *

Old Uncle Gus and I had a Nice Talk

Das Eichhörnchen is the German word
for squirrel, you know.”
Uncle Gus smiles, waves his gnarled,
liver-spotted old hand towards the window,
at the squirrel outside, gnawing peacefully
on an acorn. “And acorn is die Eichel,
and flowerpot is der Blumentopf ,
and roses are der Rosenstrauß,
don’t you just love roses,
and an oak tree in German is die Eiche.
Old Uncle Gus who was born in Germany in 1878
told me a lot of German words that day,
back in the spring of 1969,
when I stopped by to visit him and Aunt Queenie.
They lived close to my college
in a quaint old brick house
with a white picket fence
and window-boxes that Norman Rockwell
would’ve loved to paint. Aunt Queenie
was my great aunt, my grandmother’s sister,
and the sweetest person
who ever lived. She served me milk
and homemade oatmeal cookies that day,
after I finished with Old Uncle Gus.
He was almost 90, but had spent the last 30 years
stuck in bed, like a beetle (der Borkenkäfer)
trapped forever in amber (das Bernsteingelb)
after he shattered his hip by falling down
the stairs in his house and he wasn’t even drunk.
But his mind, I could tell was still sharp,
yes sharp as a tack (der Täcks).
“And chair, in German that’s der Sessel,
and table is die Spielgesellschaft . . .”

~ Michael Estabrook lives in Acton, MA.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Three Photos: Jean-Jacques Béguin



"Light Glade"

~ Jean-Jacques Béguin resides in both Geneva/Switzerland and Armissan/France. You can see more of his work at DP Challenge or at his French language homepage.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Two Haiku: Mark DeCarteret

st conrad of placenza

you betray your guts:
birds listen for a spell then
cut out towards heaven

* * * * *

st mildburga

to the tomb-silence
mix the recordings of birds,
the earliest light

~ Mark DeCarteret has appeared (or will soon appear) in Agni, Ars-Interpres (Sweden), Chicago Review, Killing the Buddha, and Rock and Sling, as well as the anthologies Place of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry (Story Line Press) and Francis and Clare in Poetry: An Anthology (St. Anthony Messenger Press).