friday roundup: to sound through, apocalyptic poetry, and “They fall from my life”

I want to be the Woman with the Cracked Face. P.S. Don't they look heavy? from wikimedia

I want to be the Woman with the Cracked Face. P.S. Don’t they look heavy? from wikimedia


Um, wow. That week went by fast.

This morning at the Wee, Small House, there was a frenzied search for a “white elephant” gift for the 5th grade gift exchange, a moment of panic during which I wondered if I was supposed to provide gifts for the 3rd and 1st grade gift exchanges (I chose ignorance, which is bliss), and a spirited debate between Husband and I about where to set up the annual Christmastime jigsaw puzzle:

Me: Can I set it up on the card table in front of the fireplace?
Him: No.
Me: Grrrrrrrr!
Him: (furiously searching Google for “puzzle boards”)

I confess, I actually growled. We are, as yet, undecided. But now, on to the roundup:

to sound through I’ve been thinking a lot about persona poems lately. Partly because I still have several Mail Order Bride poems that aren’t quite done (if you have know idea what I’m talking about, read here, here, and here). Also because I’ve been working through a series of persona poems around the Demeter/Persephone myth. And also because two more personae, who I’m not quite ready to talk about yet, are knocking at my door and demanding to be let in. Sigh.

According to my sources, the etymology of the word persona is a bit murky, but may have come from the Latin personare which means “to sound through” — as in the masks used in ancient Greek and Roman theater to amplify voices on stage (world’s first PA system, see photo above). I like this idea of the poet’s voice and experience “sounding through” whatever persona the poet is working within. For myself, I think the most effective persona poems are those that effectively marry a universal (or nearly universal) truth of human experience with the known (from myth or legend *or — I’m just realizing I should’ve added — history &/or current events)) or imagined truth of the persona. For more persona poem reading, here’s an essay by Jeannine Hall Gailey on the use of personae by Lucille Clifton, Louise Gluck, and Margaret Atwood. I found it thought-provoking and insightful.

apocalyptic poetry Well, it appears that the Oreo Cookie was right — here we are. But over at Escape Into Life, Kathleen Kirk has curated a poetry feature around the theme World Without End. I’m honored to be part of the feature; mine’s the last poem down, but don’t skip because the art and the rest of the poems are fantastico. I confess, I’m totally jealous of Karen Weyant’s disco poem — why didn’t I think of that? Thanks to Kathleen for this timely feature.

[I pause here because I feel the need to apologize for linking to so many of my own poems. Normally, I’m not so self-referential.]

“They fall from my life…” Reader, this week I read a poem that took the top of my head off. I can’t find it anywhere online, so I’m going to hope the gods and goddesses of fair use will have mercy on me if I print it here. Because it’s amazing. Here it is:


Ovarian Tree by Olena Kalytiak Davis

All night the dull ache
of an overripe dream: a room
swollen with women — Look
at their hands, their hair, fern-like,
falling —
bouquet’s of adder’s tongue
hung by the root —
in a gravity that rests so low
it drags on my heart, bends
down these boughs; the hysteria
of hands and hair and gravity
and a beauty so rare
it is familiar: Look
at their waists, that’s how they bend.
Look at their wounds, that’s where
their children play. They fall
from my life until
there are no women left,
only children pulling at berries, and berries dropping
and dreaming of a new blossoming

When I’m awake, I’ll call this curvature of the soul a state.
When I’m awake, (where are the women?)
I will have forgotten.


I am so wowed by the imaginative leap that turns ovaries and fallopian tubes into an ecosystem — a room full of women; hands and hair and plants and roots and boughs; that low-resting gravity. This poem comes from Davis’ book And Her Soul Out of Nothing, which I’ve been reading and loving (and learning a lot from). Buy it here.

Also, I love that in her bio on the Poetry Foundation website she says her life is:

“mostly, getting my children raised, or just dressed: finding two  matching socks, making sea creature mobiles, reading The Magic School Bus and Moby Dick to them, sweeping over and under the mess, including scraps of construction paper and scraps of the western canon.”

OMG, my life too!!!!!! 🙂

And now, Reader, I am Behind on Everything. And it Might Rain (I’ve intuited that the phrase “Might Rain” is always capitalized in California). And, yes, the most wonderful time of the year, etc., etc., etc. So I’ll sign off, but not before wishing you a wonderful and restful weekend and holiday. See you back here soon.