A Poetry Showcase from Nancy Avery Dafoe

from pixabay

Chasing Light

Chasing light,
we ran through tall grasses—
my brothers and I wrapped our fingers 
around fireflies sending signals in the night. 

Before opening our small fists 
and releasing those living lanterns, 
we imagined life as magic constellations 
mirrored in the bones of our wrists 

like Nemerov suggested in his poem Writing,
our lives stretched out before us infinite 
because we were not yet able to imagine death 
of ourselves or others in a flash of lightning.

Take the Beaver

Take the beaver, for example,
that industrious creature slowing rivers, 
creating wetlands absorbing toxins; 
beavers building dams and lodges
for their kits nestled in comfort, 
beaver lodges with eating chambers 
and underwater exits and entrances;
beavers with architecture so intricate 
yet their lives not worth their pelts,
so, man took the beaver and took 
the beaver until that animal
was nearly eradicated nationwide
and replaced by man’s genius 
in carving up bogs, filling swamps 
with toxic landfills leaching 
into water supplies.

Man’s labors speeding up 
rivers for hydroelectricity,
destroying those carbon sinks
once the domain of the beaver
now in industrial development, 
as monstrous amounts of carbon 
are emitted, choking life 
out of the planet, but at least 
we have fewer beavers 
to deal with and those reminders 
of a simpler time in the face 
of our complex systems 
of waste and ruin. 

Earth Awakens

In that moment of insight—
silent movement found in descending light—
latecomer red clouds—
bloodred streaks in the sky—suggesting another time 
even another locus from this far field isolation
with fading tall grasses bent and blurring 
figures first then thoughts
into other dark.

That near place— 
almost unreachable now—
that once familiar time culled then held close
from hushed memory in which distinction is blurred:
the Earth awakens, our defensive projection,
to destruction—lands and waters 
poisoned. Asking of us, 
to what ends?

It's Getting Hotter

It’s getting hotter across the planet,
and grasses have turned sizzling brown
as if to please a blistering sun with their burning. 

While an ominous shadow crosses the plains 
without releasing its rains—that bounty 
saved for a part of the country
where rains are still plentiful
and creeks and rivers swell until 
overflowing, flooding everything 
downstream, taking all that is left of good soil—
another desert is forming.

Another people in forced migration
on a widening path under cover of night 
when it is still cool enough to walk, 
with their few belongings on their backs, 
across now barren lands
toward some distant hope, 
toward imagined plenty, they walk 
knowing even the stars would reduce 
all to ash before they got close. 

This planet is getting hotter,
and all of mankind is moving
toward conflict and desolation:

Nemesis exacting her revenge 
for the hubris of man foolish enough
to help destroy his only habitable home.

Examining My Carbon Footprint

Examining the rough soles of my feet,
many years into wandering,
I consider my high arch, the ball of my foot
that juts out too far, my narrow heel lined 
with callouses, and I think of being on my feet
all day when I was teaching before remembering
to ask, just what is my carbon footprint?
That CO2 emission I personally 
am responsible for, endangering
the planet and every life form.

I think about waste and chaos,
chaos and waste as the world plays itself out.
I think about politicization and misinformation
told by knowing men as they drilled and lied.
I think about trying to reduce or just contain
our wastes or use of electricity, driving
my car to see my grandchildren. 

There are enumerated steps to follow 
in reducing our dangerously high CO2 
emissions, but they are difficult for the individual 
to believe that one of us can make any difference
when a single flight uses 36,000 gallons of oil.

Eat less meat, plant a garden, drive less,
waste less—but I’m aware our entire way 
of life is based upon manufactured waste 
as prime ingredient in profit directive.

Changing how we live so hard when
nearly half the population is still 
wrapped and insulated in conspiracies and lies, 
they will never consider science or knowledge 
of real value. And I think of the generations’
long deceptions by big oil and gas companies—
looking at you, Exxon Mobil, BP, Sinopec, 
and Saudi Aramco whose CEOs have duped us all—
with CO2 footprints large enough to fill continents.

When they line up the species to examine 
our carbon footprints, none compare to man’s
and his legacy of destruction, wars and waste, 
what we leave in our wide stance 
our stature small but out CO2 footprints those
of monstrous giants stomping across the planet. 

But that vision is so dark as to cause giving up 
or giving in, so I will do neither and reduce 
where I can, when I can and encourage others, 
before going to the garden to listen 
for sparrows and the whistle of the osprey.

Thinking About Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton
first published in Nancy's collection Innermost Sea, by Finishing Line Press, 2018

About how they never got over pain,
considering the ways a child’s loss
worked itself up 33 bones—
these vertebrae that form spine
—where frustration and loss lodged
in cells of dorsal root ganglia,
on route to the brain
where at will, Plath and Sexton
could return to seasons of girls
catching fire,
transmitting torment into
perfect articulation.
No suicide girls, these women
who chose immolation—
even though choice implies preference
when it is no more than opportunity
at slivered edge. These poets
let us hear the voice beneath the din,
those sounds we scarcely recognize,
overlapping as they are 
by slapping sounds on water.
How to describe it exactly—
fluctuating quivers of emotion
and intellectual thought
moving emptiness, filling
void with desolation as we try
to find our way by echolocation,
listening, separating out cymbals
because, after all, too often 
what we hear is just
air beating on inner ear,
asking to be let in.

Bio: Author/poet/educator Nancy Avery Dafoe writes in multiple genres and has thirteen books, including three poetry collections, through independent publishers. Her poetry won the William Faulkner/Wisdom award in 2016, and her fiction won the short story award from New Century Writers. A member of the CNY Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, she is currently serving as second vice president of that organization. 

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Natalie Marino

Q1: When did you start writing and whom influenced you the most now and currently?

Natalie: I started seriously writing poetry in 2019, and was at first most influenced by Louise Glück and Sylvia Plath. Currently, two of my favorite poets are Linda Gregg and Charles Simic. 

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Natalie: I have always been drawn to what I call the potential of magic in poetry. My chosen career as a physician and being a mother of two young children keep me very busy attending to other people’s needs, and both are roles that I feel privileged to have. Soon after I turned 40, I started a weekly writing practice because I developed the need for a creative outlet.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?

Natalie: Kelli Russell Agodon has been a wonderful mentor to me. She has been very helpful to me in my pursuit of becoming a poet.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Natalie: I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. I often include details of Southern California’s landscape in my poetry. 

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

Natalie: My ecopoetry and poems concerning grief have been the most meaningful to me. 

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Natalie: My favorite activities to relax are cooking, gardening, and creating art with my children.

Q7: What is a favorite line/ stanza/lyric from your writing?

Natalie: Favorite lines from one of my poems include these from my poem “Songbird:” “Even the sycamores outside/ the window acknowledge your end// with their sudden stillness./ You chose my birth// and watched me walk in the sun/ and then into the world’s grief,//but we were not new together./ Did it seem so the first time// I was mesmerized by snow?”

Q8: What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that come back to you as an inspiration?

Natalie: Jazz music inspires me the most. Miles Davis’s “Blue in Green” is a song I listen to again and again for inspiration.

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, projects that you’d like to promote?

Natalie: My first poetry chapbook, Memories of Stars will be published by Finishing Line Press in June 2023.

Bio: Natalie Marino is a poet and physician. Her work appears in Atlas and Alice, Gigantic Sequins, Hobart, Isele Magazine, Pleiades, Rust + Moth, The Shore, and elsewhere. She lives in California. You can read some of her poetry at nataliemarino.com






Short Story/Poetry: Writing School Dean by Karol Nielsen

Time, Work, Clock, Coffee, Planning

photo from pixabay

Writing School Dean

I interviewed for a job as a writing teacher while I was still working as a journalist. My eye watered all during the interview. It had started to water after I got a bad sty in South America and the tear duct scarred over when it healed. The dean who interviewed me said that Catherine Hepburn had a watery eye that she developed during filming of the African Queen. He asked me why I wanted to teach and I said, “I need the money.” My freelance magazine job owed me thousands and I was desperate for a steady paycheck. He chuckled and hired me. The school had a holiday party at the end of my first term and I wore a hot pink angora sweater while most of the staff wore beatnik black. The dean talked to me all night and asked me out. He wrote young adult mystery novels but he was shot down when he proposed young adult spy novels. He also wrote plays and worked odd jobs to support his writing like bail bondsman and building manager. His old girlfriend left a message on his answering machine on New Year’s Eve while I was in his apartment. “I love you,” she said. He used to work straight through the weekends and weeks would go by before I saw him. I grew tired of waiting and got back online to find someone new. When I wrote a play about internet dating, I had a reading at a bar on the Lower East Side. I invited the dean and he asked, “Am I in it.” “No,” I said.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Karol Nielsen

Bio: Karol Nielsen is the author of the memoirs Black Elephants (Bison Books, 2011) and Walking A&P (Mascot Books, 2018) and the chapbooks This Woman I Thought I’d Be (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Vietnam Made Me Who I Am (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in nonfiction in 2012. Excerpts were honored as notable essays in The Best American Essays in 2010 and 2005. Her full poetry collection was longlisted for the Terry J. Cox Poetry Award in 2021 and was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2007. One poem was a finalist for the Ruth Stone Poetry Prize in 2021. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Guernica, Lumina, North Dakota Quarterly, Permafrost, RiverSedge, and elsewhere. She teaches creative nonfiction and memoir writing with New York Writers Workshop.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Robin Wright

with Robin Wright:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Robin: I started writing in high school: thoughts in a journal, poems, short stories, even song lyrics. One of the most influential writers for me at that time was S.E. Hinton. She had written a couple of novels, “The Outsiders,” and “That Was Then This is Now.” The characters were so richly evolved and the story lines so captivating.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Robin: I can’t choose just one influence! I think I’m influenced by many contemporary poets: Dorianne Laux, Kim Addonizio, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, Jim McGarrah, and all of the poets in the RAR online critique group.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

Robin: I grew up in Southern Indiana in the U.S. in a city on the river. I think the climate, the influence of the water, and the people I’ve encountered have all had their influence on my writing. I have not travelled extensively, so travelling is only a minor influence on my work.

Q4: What do you consider your most meaningful work that you’ve done creatively so far?

Robin: Some of the most meaningful work that I’ve done so far includes the poems I’ve written about family members and friends who have passed away and also an essay about some middle school students who could teach all of us about how to behave as humane and respectful human beings.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Robin: I believe I had the urge to write starting with the writing I did in high school, but other life events happened, and so, I didn’t get back to it until later in life when I went back to college. I took a creative writing class on a whim and knew that I wanted to keep writing.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Robin: Some of my favorite activities when not writing are spending time with my grandchildren, listening to my husband’s band(s) play, reading, walking, visiting a little town not far from where I live, New Harmony, IN.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

Robin: As for recent and upcoming work, I had my first chapbook published in October 2020 by Finishing Line Press: Ready or Not by Robin Wright – Finishing Line Press, My poem “Winter” will be published in Spank the Carp in August. My essay, “Valentine’s Day 2020: What I Learned from Washington Middle School Students,” will be published in the August issue of Sanctuary Magazine. Links to poems recently published: Poet as President by Robin Wright (sledgehammerlit.com) https://muddyriverpoetryreview.webs.com/Robin%20Wright-1.pdf https://poetryandcovid.com/2020/12/13/grab-and-go-school-lunches-summer-2020/

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others?

Robin: One of my favorite lines from one of my poems, “Services at a Later Date,” is “. . .I claw/ the soil, bury what’s left/ of the flowers, push/ my palms together, pretend/ I know how to pray.”

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Robin: I’ve had so much help and support over the years. Patty Aakhus encouraged me to take a poetry class, Jim McGarrah was my instructor in a poetry class in college, the members of the Student Writers Union in college, the ladies in my poetry circle, the members of the RAR online critique group, and my granddaughter who is a teenager but a published poet as well. I’m also learning from being a part of the TopTweetTuesday group of poets.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with David Estringel

David Estringel (@The_Booky_Man) | Twitter

with David Estringel

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

David: I actually started writing very late in life at 49 years old. I had always wanted to write short stories and poetry since my 20s but never seemed to find the time (or the passion) to do so. I guess you could say I was pretty limited—in terms of life experiences: I hadn’t lived. I had no voice (to speak of). With age, however, came that voice.
I would say my earliest influences would be Homer, Raymond Carver, and Stevie Nicks.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

David: Honestly, my Pandora playlist, which is heavy on Lord Huron and The Great Lake Swimmers.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away from home influence your work?

David: I grew up in South Texas in a small town called Brownsville. I hated it there. The place was repressed and extremely conservative (not the best place to be for a gay boy). Needless to say, I developed a lot of angst due to my struggles during my early years. Not everything was bad though. The landscape was pretty savage with all the mesquite trees and cacti, as well as the gray clay soil that cracked under the sun: all against orange, pink, and purple sunsets. I think I can find beauty in almost anything now.

Q4: What do you consider you most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

David: That is a hard one. I would say “Digging for Lost Temples” would be my choice. It is a piece of narrative prose that serves as a sort of apology and lament for the loss of my “Mexicanness”. The sadness and anger in it are palpable. https://www.drunkmonkeys.us/2017-posts/2020/1/13/essay-digging-for-lost-temples-david-estringel

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

David: I would have to say that moment occurred when the instructor of the first Creative Writing course I ever took (about 25 years ago) scribbled on a poem I submitted (my first one ever), “You, sir, are a poet. Don’t stop!” Her name was Mef Hardin and I still speak her name to this very day.

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

David: Listening to music, napping with my five dogs, and reading.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?

David: This August I will be taking part in Tupelo Press’ 30/30, writing one poem a day for 30 days, which I am terribly excited about. I also recently found out that my third chapbook Eating Pears on the Rooftop will be published at Finishing Line Press in the Summer of 2022. Lastly, SOYYO Magazine reached out to me, recently, about promoting my work via the blockchain (NFTs), which is new territory for me. Lots of great things coming this coming year.

Q8: What is one of your favorite lines/stanzas from a poem of yours or others?


O, viejas de negro!
How you line the front pews
at Catholic masses
like pushers sitting on street curbs,
rolling rosary beads—
like pills of black-tar heroin—
between jonesing fingers,
craving elusive fixes of salvation,
visiones de Dios.
(from “Coda-Switch”, originally published at Cajun Mutt Press)

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

David: My muse. Yes, I actually believe that I have one.