Poems, Songs, Stories, Thoughts

2020 in Poems

No one can deny that dealing with the effects of COVID, and social unrest (however necessary), has been difficult. But for me — and many of us — it was also creatively productive.

While it’s true that I received more than 100 rejections this year, I also increased my submission rate by basically 100 percent — as in, I hadn’t submitted much of anything since I graduated from college in 2014.

So, in an effort to focus on the positives of 2020, I have compiled a list of poems — one for each month, though I published twice as many — to exemplify my writing successes this year.

January

“Chinook (NYE)”

This poem brings me full circle: I wrote this little poem about wind and snow and resolutions on January 1, 2020, and now it is set to be published in the next issue of Alaska Women Speak in January (or possibly February) 2021!

February

“Layer / Lair”

This was my first publication of 2020, and an homage to my students at a local alternative high school. It was also my first attempt using French in a poem — I’m still learning (teaching myself on Duolingo), but when the French teacher at that same school taught me the wonderful difference between savoir and connaître, I just had to use it (although, knowing what I know now, I’m pretty sure I should have used connaître instead of connais, so keep that in mind if you dare to use a foreign language in your poems).

In any case, I’m proud of the poem. You can read it by purchasing a digital or print copy of the Spring 2020 issue of Alaska Women Speak here.

March

“Contrails”

This may have been my first attempt at a sestina (at least since college), and with it I made my first appearance on Rattle‘s Poets Respond Open Mic, a kind of podcast for poems on current events. The poem wasn’t accepted for the weekly contest, but I was glad to be able to share it with more than just the editors online — one of the perks of COVID closures, particularly as an Alaskan, is how many more opportunities have cropped up, with organizations being forced to go online for the first time or encouraged to expand their already-existent online reach.

Watch me read and talk about my observational conspiracy poem, “Contrails,” in the video below!

Start at 17:30 for me!

April

“Poems”

In celebration of National Poetry Month, I wrote an Etheree after Rattle editor Tim Green titled “Poems” and posted it to Instagram, along with a triolet after poet and Rattlecast guest Katherine Barrett Swett. If you’d like to watch Tim’s interview with her, click here.

May

“Summer”

May was a big month for me — my birthday falls in the middle, and my seventh book, Interstitials, launched at the end of the month. It was my first time using IngramSpark, my first time hosting a virtual book launch, my longest book of poetry to date, my first with a foreword as well as solicited blurbs and reviews, and just an all around huge accomplishment. I’m really proud of that book, so I hope you’ll pick up a copy if you haven’t already (through Red Sweater Press, Black Birch Books, The Writer’s Block, or Fireside Books).

In the meantime, here’s a sample poem called “Summer,” just a little slice of life in the Mat-Su Valley:

June

“Protest”

This summer, I attended my first protest in Alaska, regarding Black Lives Matter. I went as an observer, unsure of what to expect, but determined to document what felt like a historic moment (check out the blog post on that event here). “Protest” was the poem that came out of it, and I submitted it with an image to our local Make A Scene magazine, which you can view below.

This poem was also written in a form called the “dyo,” invented by New Hampshire poet Jimmy Pappas. Ask him about it here, and tell him who sent you!

July

“The Spider That I Didn’t Kill”

On a totally different note, and in an effort to keep putting my words in front of people, I published a bit of rhyming, light verse in the July issue of Make A Scene, titled, “The Spider That I Didn’t Kill.” Read it below!

August

“Geese”

This haibun was the first poem I wrote as part of the 30/30 Project fundraiser for Tupelo Press. Teri was also my first donor, so it gave me a lot of joy to be able to write this poem for her in a form she loves with a photo she took. 30/30 was a highly motivating and enjoyable challenge that I recommend to any poet looking to develop their craft quickly, get to know other poets across the country, and make a habit of writing daily.

The poems are taken down at the end of the following month (September in my case), but here’s a screenshot of how my poem appeared on the site:

September

“Room (cento)”

This cento constructed of my favorite Maya Angelou lines was my first “formal” poem accepted by Alaska Women Speak, and I was delighted to have it published alongside two free verse poems I wrote this year: “Challenged” (in reference to books “banned” in the Mat-Su, which you can read about here) and “Church Coffee,” a critique of modern American churches with luxuries like coffee shops in their buildings. You can read these by purchasing a digital or print copy of the Fall 2020 issue here.

October

“Someone Else’s Cat”

October was a good month for publication, too. I had three haiku published online for Alaska Book Week, and I had my first poem published in The Ekphrastic Review, based on a drawing by my friend Courtney (click the links provided to read them)! Shortly before this, I also discovered a quirky little online journal called The Cabinet of Heed, run by Irish author Simon Webster. “Someone Else’s Cat” (inspired by the little cutie pictured below) was published in Issue 39, sixth “drawer” from the bottom, which you can read here.

Meet Norris!

November

“Starved”

Thanks to her interview with Rattle, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer is now a part of my daily routine. She has been publishing a poem on her blog every day for more than 13 years, which I can super appreciate in terms of discipline, artistic expression, and championing self-published work. So, I wrote a poem inspired by one of hers, on the concept of the poet as “other” and self simultaneously. “Starved” was published in the November issue of Make A Scene, which you can read below.

December

“How Not to Assemble an Office Chair”

This year, by way of a comment on a Billy Collins broadcast, I found a group called Verse-Virtual, which is both an online literary journal and a community of poets. I’ve had several poems accepted by the editor, Jim Lewis, this year, with encouraging comments from him and others. This month, he took two of my poems: “Needs,” a short one about an experience with my toddler niece a few months ago, and “How Not to Assemble an Office Chair,” a long piece of light verse featured in my August newsletter (which you should subscribe to if you haven’t already!). You can read both of these poems in the December issue here.

The proverbial office chair, in my online teaching space.

My “Jubilee” (name of the form and the poem) was also accepted by Wine Cellar Press as a semi-finalist for their Order of Chaos Contest (link to come), and I had two boozy tanka accepted by The Daily Drunk this month!

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