“It is Elizabeth Bishop’s Fish” by Colleen Michaels

It is Elizabeth Bishop’s Fish

who instructs me to gut

the image of long-line fishing

I had wanted so badly to drop

into a poem about my mother

- not a tremendous poem at all -

but I wanted to pull taut this

line between mother and child

tie us on “one long elegant line,”

I wrote. That was the victory.

But the poem hadn’t struggled at all -

An easy catch on the Bering Sea

tangled in miles of violent lines.

“Cut it loose,” Bishop

whispers from her boat.

This greedy connotation

of hook and drag.

The slitting of a leatherback’s

throat is in that line.

And what of the albatrosses

who dive down famished?

All that neck pain and cursing

now caught in the net.

Mothers and daughters are all

capable of cutting so badly.

Anyone can hack at something.

But to cut clean, to fillet

the fine-boned, or better,

to catch and release, demands

clear accuracy.

“Let it catch the light

before it goes down, this first poem.”

If you must make a fish into a mother,

listen to her shallow breath in your labor.

Cast further, for the venerable and battered

breath, her youth of polio and iron lung cages.

Find a use for those mentioned

flies, the greenheads,

who would bombard

you both in pregnancy.

Articulate iridescence.

Long-line fishing – skill less of course,

not even fishing, -swindles

sharks for their teeth.

They drop to the floor,

eaten alive by lesser prey.

“Your mother has bite.

How dare you not stare?”

The fishing champion tsks from her craft.

Note the arc above

your mother’s dead-eye stare,

her bleached centipede scar,

a sunning, still predator

on her bad leg.

Give her a rainbow in the gasoline.

The strain of straps on the pink

two piece, edges ruffled like a carnation,

the one she wore

swimming on Cape Cod

when first pregnant with you.

Colleen Michaels

Colleen Michaels

Colleen Michaels is always busy. She will be in charge of poetry on the trollies at this year’s Massachusetts Poetry Festival in May. She will not only be recruiting poets, she will be reading her own work. Her poems and essays have appeared in journals and anthologies including The Paterson Literary Review, Blue Collar Review, The Mom Egg, Paper Nautilus, Stoneboat, Up the Staircase Quarterly,  Constellations, and Here Come the Brides: Reflections on Love and Lesbian Marriage. Her poetry has been commissioned as an installation at Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts. She was a finalist for the Split This Rock Poetry Competition and the recipient of an honorable mention in the 2011 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize.

Interview with Erica Funkhouser

Erica Funkhouser

Erica Funkhouser

This interview with Erica Funkhouser is the third in a series with the featured poets for the 2013 Massachusetts Poetry Festival (May 3 – 5 in Salem).  Each interview is accompanied by a poem, featured in the left column under “Poem of the Moment.” Erica’s poem is Impossible.

Schedule for Festival 2013 Is Now Available

Festival logo 2013The Massachusetts Poetry Festival 2013 is now open for your registration.

And we are offering more events than ever before for the May 3 through 5 Festival in Salem. We are starting activities earlier–at 1:15 on Friday–and running them later–until 4:45 on Sunday afternoon. Altogether we have around 200 poets reading and over 100 workshops, panels, and performances to choose from. [Read more...]

South of Boston Poetry Trail: April

 A report from Jack Scully:


Boston National Poetry Month Festival at BPL, April 5-7

booksAre you going to be at the marathon? Not the marathon that starts in Hopkinton, but the poetry marathon that runs April 5 to 7 at the Boston Public Library?

[Read more...]

Perugia Press Poet Wins the Gift of Freedom Award

Diane GilliamPhoto by Deborah Boardman

Diane Gilliam
Photo by Deborah Boardman

Diane Gilliam, whose second book, Kettle Bottom, was published by Massachusetts’s Perugia Press, has won the Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation. The $50,000  award is the largest of its kind for women writers.

[Read more...]

Alice Kociemba Reflects on Past and Present Common Threads Programs

Thanks to Alice Kociemba, a devoted contributor to the success of Common Threads, for this reflection on past and coming discussion groups.

Alice Kociemba

Alice Kociemba

In the first two years of the Common Threads Reading Project, I led or participated in six community groups.  Some were “drop-in” groups at local libraries as their National Poetry Month Celebrations, some were groups that had met over a number of years to read published poems and/or to critique poems of its members.  What  always surprises me is that complete strangers in the “drop-in” groups were just as open and authentic as the ongoing groups’ discussions. [Read more...]

“The Bicyclist” by Lis Weiss Horowitz

In Memorium
Ondar Goekce 1952-1995

We buried you on the hottest day
while your children, impatient with grief
and the long ride in the limousine,
jumped through the fluid hoop
the sprinkler cast in the neighbor’s grass,
the sun directly above. The sermon
on how briefly we love meant nothing
when the priest in his Turkish folds
opened the top of your pine box
and rolled you onto your side,
turning your weight to face Mecca.

My envoy, who slipped off your bicycle
on a clear day without traffic, as you were turning
to your wife to say something, could anything
have broken your fall? Did you know
you were pedaling away from us forever?
She said the bike sailed out from under you
as if it had a mind of its own.

You who go before us, at the turn
of the block, a turn we all have taken,
where houses begin again after the marsh
where will you be this winter while we skate
on the strange calm of the time we have?

Lis Weiss Horowitz

Lis Weiss Horowitz

Lis Weiss Horowitz, a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, has published poetry in Crazyhorse, London’s Poetry Review and, most recently, in La Ostra and other small press magazines. She’s taught at Hofstra University and in prisons, nursing homes and preschools. She presently teaches poetry writing and literature at Salem State University and at North Shore Community College. She lives in Marblehead, MA where she is a docent in the Lee Mansion and volunteers for the MA Poetry Festival.

Interview with Martin Espada

Martin Espada with painting of Frida Kahlo

Martin Espada with painting of Frida Kahlo

This interview with Martin Espada is the second in a series with the featured poets for the 2013 Massachusetts Poetry Festival (May 3 – 5 in Salem).  Each interview is accompanied by a poem, featured in the left column under “Poem of the Moment.” Martin’s poem is “The Playboy Calendar and the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.”

[Read more...]

Common Threads 2013 Is Here!

Artist: Ed Schutte.

Artist: Ed Schutte

We’ve selected ten poems by Massachusetts poets for the Common Threads readings. Included in the article is a link to a PDF with the poems plus questions for discussion and essays for analysis. And check out the videos of the poems being read. Gather the gang and enjoy them together.

Described by poet Jill McDonough as “Ten pastorals, ten poems about the outdoors. Pastoral as joshing, take-this-job-and-shove-it. As meditation on life and death, on loveliness. As drunken urban water skiing, but with snow instead of water. And a pick-up truck instead of a boat. As grateful wonder over how your life turned out. Battlefield close-up, geography of afterlife, a metaphor for the interior landscape of a whole life’s  time. As historical consideration of the outside in news you didn’t remember could split you inside out.” [Read more...]


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