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What You SawSpeak, Memory

One of the rewards of putting together a poetry anthology is the rich network of writers the collection creates. As I was gathering poems, quotations, and cover photos for Joys of the Table, I sometimes imagined all the contributors exchanging verses over supper in a huge dining hall. It never happened, of course. But next best is hearing from them, especially with good news. Judith Waller Carroll, whose poem “Lemon Bread” appeared (along with a yummy recipe) in Joys, recently shared some really exciting news: her first full-length collection, What You Saw and Still Remember, will be released in January by the Main Street Rag Publishing Company. As reviewer Andrea Hollander says of Carroll’s poems, “Her precise images take hold and settle until the poem’s close, when they stab and sizzle. … Carroll’s finely wrought poems seize our own hearts and do not let go.” I couldn’t agree more. Here’s a moving piece from the book, which is available for pre-order:

My Father’s Blue Sweater
By Judith Waller Carroll

He hasn’t been alive for over twenty years
but suddenly, here he is in this room,
smelling of Marlboros and mints,
wearing that blue cardigan,
faded and soft, slightly frayed at the cuffs,
the one I brought home after his funeral
and wore for weeks without washing,
not wanting to lose the scent.
He is reeled back on his heels
reciting Emerson by heart,
dark eyes wide, unruly eyebrows raised,
long fingers outstretched, smoothing the air.

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Up from the TropicsBacopa Literary Review

I was delighted when my poem “Theory of Omission” was accepted for publication in the 2017 Bacopa Literary Review, an annual international print journal published by the Writers Alliance of Gainesville, Florida. I was even more delighted when my copy arrived. The journal overflows with thoughtful writing and is handsomely produced. (By the way, it turns out bacopa is a genus of aquatic plants that grow in tropical and subtropical areas like Florida.)

Theory of Omission
By Sally Zakariya

A sparrow rests on the rusted
fencepost, its red-brown feathers
echoing the rust

Omit the sparrow and the thought
of bird remains, mental excavation
discovering what is no longer there

So it is with loss

That which is removed, remains
that which never was, hovers
on the edge of existence

You who are now gone
you who never were
my archaeology creates you –
sparrows that do not rest
on any fencepost

Copies are available on Amazon

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Acquainted with Grief

“Sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can make with what you have left.” That’s what Itzhak Perlman is said to have told a Lincoln Center audience when one of the strings on his violin suddenly broke. Perlman continued his concert, minus a string. In her new chapbook, Itzhak Perlman's Broken String, poet Jacqueline Jules explores the aftermath of loss, finding music, as one reviewer says, in “our crippled instruments.” The 2016 winner of the Evening Street Press Helen Kay Award, the chapbook contains poems that are stunning, moving, powerful. Here’s one example:

Avocado Secret
By Jacqueline Jules

When the widow wrote
how her husband
once said she was like
a perfectly ripe avocado,
I wanted to rush right out
and buy one. Examine
its tough exterior,
creamy innards,
solid core.

Learn its secret.

At your bedside, I was
best described as a banana.
A fruit turning brown
and mushy too quickly.

Just like an avocado
when sliced too late.

Except I had no pit
deep inside, stopping
the knife.

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Lilacs and Orchids

Sometimes a remembered scene from my childhood will spark a poem, and that’s the case with a piece that was recently included in Women's Voices Anthology, a publication of These Fragile Lilacs Press:

Hoarder, with Orchids
By Sally Zakariya

He collected newspapers and magazines
     years of them
bright spines of National Geographics
stacked high like a yellow brick road
     to the sky
piles and piles of publications carefully
curated wall by paper wall
narrow pathways between the walls
a tantalizing maze to me at six

He was my parents’ friend
and later they said he’d gotten worse
but he seemed fine to me
a builder, an excavator creating
his own topography there in his
     living room
an archaeologist who could find
history at the bottom of each mound
even if he couldn’t find a clear space
     for mother to sit

But he made room for his orchids
lavish flourishes of blossom
pink to lavender to blue arrayed
     in graceful sprays
lovingly tended in a big bay window
row by row, a sort of orchard
with a generosity of empty space
     between the plants

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A Fond Farewell

It’s hard to say good-bye to someone who enlivened his surroundings with insight and wit. Jules Spector, who died recently, was such a person. I knew Jules through a series of poetry classes we shared. His poems were unfailingly strong, spare, and shrewd yet loving. “I entered into his world every time he read one of his pieces to us,” said one classmate. Another added, “Jules' poems always took us into a life rich with family characters, acting in wildly too-human ways.” We will miss his voice in our classes, but thankfully he left us a splendid collection of poems, We Live in Hopes published by Opus, an arm of Washington’s Politics and Prose Bookstore. Thank you, Jules, for your wry and sensitive poetry.

Starstruck
By Jules Spector

In the darkened theater, the tall
actor with his Yiddish tongue
beguiled my mother. During my
stark childhood days, her fantasy
of him, this star of stars
brought before me a glimmer of
what might exist beyond my loneliness.

On Sunday afternoons she took me
with her to the playhouse on Walnut Street
to see an unlikely miracle, Yiddish
drama presented by actors, rags
upon their bodies, passion in their
eyes, swords in their scabbards.

Above all, my mother loved this
prince of actors, Maurice Schwartz.
His dark good looks, his widow’s
peak, his stride across the stage.
He commanded it all, surmounted
obstacles, averted disaster.
I saw him in her eyes when she looked
at me, when she smiled.

What did she think that day, arriving
early, finding him there in the small
box office. Where were the dark eyelashes?
The eyebrows, the high-colored cheeks?
The man before her, dull gray
not a shining beam of light in God’s universe.
He glance up, saw our sadness, turned away.

We sat through the play. Suffered
with the sufferers on stage. Surely
my mother felt disillusioned, but I
could not agree. In that dark space
light and life remained.
Illusion and imagination.
A dream of dreamers.
An opening in my mind.

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‘Words That Shine Forth’

What is it about a lot of today’s poetry that turns me off? Oh right, it’s the tendency of some young poets to be abstract, obscure, esoteric, over-academic, whatever. And I guess I’m not alone. Writing recently in The New York Times Book Review section, Matthew Zapruder makes a strong argument for accessible poetry. “Good poets do not deliberately complicate something just to make it harder for a reader to understand,” writes Zapruder, an award-winning poet and author of the forthcoming Why Poetry.

Trouble is, we’re often taught to approach a poem by analyzing metaphor, understanding allusion, and probing for deeper meaning. Instead, Zapruder advises, start with the words themselves. “One of the greatest pleasures of reading poetry is to feel words mean what they usually do in everyday life, and also start to move into a more charged, activated realm,” he writes.

“Somewhere, in every poem, there are words that shine forth, light up, almost as if plugged in,” says r. “This is what poetry can do for language, and for us.”

Read Zapruder’s “Critic’s Take” here.

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Root, Trunk, Bark, Bough

I used to climb them, but that was long ago. Now I write about them, and sometimes I’m lucky enough to have my tree poems published. One of them, “Paperbark Maple,” is in a beautiful new book called These Trees. Photographer Ruthie Rosauer has gathered more than 130 of her photographs and paired them with poems. The collection, handsomely designed and printed, would make a great gift for anyone who loves trees.

Paperbark Maple

Wind animates the three-lobed leaves
curled to cup the summer air

A folio of bark peels off in shaggy sheets
scribbled with imagined verses

These paperbarks are artist trees
self-portraits en plein air

They tell their stories leaf
by silent leaf for us to read their changes

Fall brings a fiery palette, then winter
twigs write letters on the sky

In spring winged double seeds hang-
glide on wind in artful acrobatics

Where they take hold another year
will bring its own new poetry 

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Getting Published

It should go without saying, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded: When you’re trying to get your stories and poems and creative nonfiction published, be professional.

“Take the time to visit the individual sites of lit mags that you are interested in,” says Becky Tuch, founding editor of The Review Review, a useful newsletter of views on publishing. “Read their guidelines,” she continues. “For some reason, people often consider themselves exempt from rules. You're not. You must play by the rules like everyone else. It doesn't make you boring. It makes your writing accessible.”

This is just one of Tuch’s tips for getting published in literary journals. Read seven more in From Pen to Print. My favorite? “Approach your writing with fierce determination.

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What Are You Writing?

Why should we get all the bylines? Submit your latest poem—just one for now—and we’ll publish the poems we like best in an upcoming blog post. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but please let us know if the poem is accepted or published elsewhere. Send your poem, plus a few lines about yourself, in the body of an e-mail message to:
poetryeditor@RicherResourcesPublications.com

 

You Are Here

Welcome to But Does it Rhyme?
We're a small, but hopefully growing, band of poets who like to talk about our craft and share what we've written. We'll highlight favorite poets, review new books, and explore the process of writing poetry from inspiration to conclusion. (We might venture into essays and short fiction, too.) We hope you'll like our blog — and contribute your own thought and poems.

Sally Zakariya, Poetry Editor
Richer Resources Publications

Charan Sue Wollard (LivermoreLit)
Kevin Taylor (Poet-ch'i)
Sherry Weaver Smith (SherrysKnowledgeQuest)

books
Richer Resources Publications

 

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