8/2/22 Workshop – A Poem by Chen Yun

                     Summer – Chen Jun

The swinger the swirler the swirled: stop grieving.

I drink all night but in a diminishing appetite.

The scene outside is obscene from a humbling window.

My sentiment spreads, my famine a flagpole, a grizzle.

Birds sing next year’s songs, or antique rescues.

I write but where shall I send it?

Let go — I shall go tie the flowers the leaves the whole orchard.

The outskirts are curved, shadows of countrywoman donors    …

You bring me a cup of fresh tea that I love,

I return you two kapok leaves — like hand waves.


Reflective writing prompt:

Write about letting go.

7/19/22 Workshop – A Poem by Ada Limón

What It Looks Like To Us and the Words We Use
by Ada Limón

All these great barns out here in the outskirts,
black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass.
They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.
You say they look like arks after the sea’s
dried up, I say they look like pirate ships,
and I think of that walk in the valley where
J said, You don’t believe in God? And I said,
No. I believe in this connection we all have
to nature, to each other, to the universe.
And she said, Yeah, God. And how we stood there,
low beasts among the white oaks, Spanish moss,
and spider webs, obsidian shards stuck in our pockets,
woodpecker flurry, and I refused to call it so.
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,
its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name
though we knew they were really just clouds—
disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.

Reflective writing prompt:
Write about how the world looks to you.


6/21/22 Workshop – A Poem by Ross Gay

Poem to My Child, If Ever You Shall Be
               —after Steve Scafidi

The way the universe sat waiting to become,
quietly, in the nether of space and time,

you too remain some cellular snuggle
dangling between my legs, curled in the warm

swim of my mostly quietest self. If you come to be—
And who knows?—I wonder, little bubble

of unbudded capillaries, little one ever aswirl
in my vascular galaxies, what would you think

of this world which turns itself steadily
into an oblivion that hurts, and hurts bad?

Would you curse me my careless caressing you
into this world or would you rise up

and, mustering all your strength into that tiny throat
which one day, no doubt, would grow big and strong,

scream and scream and scream until you break the back of one injustice,
or at least get to your knees to kiss back to life

some roadkill? I have so many questions for you,
for you are closer to me than anyone

has ever been, tumbling, as you are, this second,
through my heart’s every chamber, your teeny mouth

singing along with the half-broke workhorse’s steady boom and gasp.
And since we’re talking today I should tell you,

though I know you sneak a peek sometimes
through your father’s eyes, it’s a glorious day,

and there are millions of leaves collecting against the curbs,
and they’re the most delicate shade of gold

we’ve ever seen and must favor the transparent
wings of the angels you’re swimming with, little angel.

And as to your mother—well, I don’t know—
but my guess is that lilac bursts from her throat

and she is both honeybee and wasp and some kind of moan to boot
and probably she dances in the morning—

but who knows? You’ll swim beneath that bridge if it comes.
For now let me tell you about the bush called honeysuckle

that the sad call a weed, and how you could push your little
sun-licked face into the throngs and breathe and breathe.

Sweetness would be your name, and you would wonder why
four of your teeth are so sharp, and the tiny mountain range

of your knuckles so hard. And you would throw back your head
and open your mouth at the cows lowing their human songs

in the field, and the pigs swimming in shit and clover,
and everything on this earth, little dreamer, little dreamer

of the new world, holy, every rain drop and sand grain and blade
of grass worthy of gasp and joy and love, tiny shaman,

tiny blood thrust, tiny trillion cells trilling and trilling,
little dreamer, little hard hat, little heartbeat,

little best of me.

Free writing prompt:
Write about the best of you.

5/24/22 Workshop – A Poem by Catherine Imbriglio

I have had my results for a long time: but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them.
-Carl Friedrich Gauss

The poet corresponds to a projective geometry, the poet corresponds to the knots in her hair

Sometimes in my dreams I descend four flights without ever touching a stair. Or on pavement I take one step and glide 406 feet, step, then glide again, a periodic walking on air. Outside the picture plane, the figure is moved to tears by a transformation of the object. What properties are invariant under projective mappings. If you put down “bleep” on paper, what part remains from the actual bleep. What parts are preserved if you shrink a heckler or a pear. In the reality plane, I have to scramble to write down a sigh word. At the last second my gamboling is curtailed. The power is out, so there’s no light pollution. Still, in the dark, pulling nine carrots from the earth is a bleeping experience.  She learns to bleep by herself while studying knot theory. A bowline knot is like a throat knot, a panic knot is like matted hair. It’s no big deal, this putting two and two together, like transference, like equating a sight line with elephants or bears.

Free writing prompt:
Write about being tied in knots.

4/26/22 Workshop – A Poem by Billy Collins

The Next Poem – Billy Collins

Whenever the question comes up,
the poets all say the same thing:
the only poem we’re interested in is the next poem,
the one not written, the poem of tomorrow.

It’s a perfect answer,
which conjures up a bit of hope
and manages to place on the higher tray
of the scale of pride a gram of modesty.

But the problem is
as soon as you start to write it,
the next poem no longer is the next poem,
rather just another poem you are writing,
and the next poem has become
an imaginary mushroom waiting
in the future in a dark forest of pine needles.

And that is probably why I have lost interest
In this poem, in where it is going
or how it will manage to find a way to end.

It could droop into a reverie,
maybe shift to the doctor’s waiting room
where I am entering it into a notebook,
or circle back to that mushroom for all I care.

All I care about is the next poem,
not this current one,
which might even turn out to be my last—

the last orange on my miniature tree,
a shroud pulled over my baby grand,
the ultimate chirp of my canary,
or, how about this?
the final striped umbrella on the vacant beach of my soul?

Free writing prompt:
Write about the next time

4/5/22 Workshop – A Poem by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

Bone Appendix – by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

After Alexandra Petrova

Trace your son’s left hand
against construction paper
with a nontoxic marker,

teaching him the edges
of his bones. Then fill
the space between

with what shines
or powders, glitter,
crushed cheerios, flecks

of skin even, teaching him
his bones remain
in spite of it. Let him try

to fit his fingers in the contours,
teaching him his bones
keep growing. And when

he makes two fists, afraid
his body can’t keep up
with what’s inside, clenching

hard as teeth to keep his bones
just as they are, to keep them
from sprouting out, tell him

of  Ukraine’s oldest apple tree
that grows its branches
low into the ground

until they drink the soil—
an indiscernible colony
of roots or eternally new trees.

And when he falls
asleep pressed to your chest,
trace his right hand

against the tree-house
rib cage it first grew, teaching him
the endlessness of bones.

3/15/22 Workshop – A Poem by Tishani Doshi

Girls Coming Out of the Woods

Girls are coming out of the woods,
wrapped in cloaks and hoods,
carrying iron bars and candles
and a multitude of scars, collected
on acres of premature grass and city
buses, in temples and bars. Girls
are coming out of the woods
with panties tied around their lips,
making such a noise, it’s impossible
to hear. Is the world speaking too?
Is it really asking, What does it mean
to give someone a proper resting? Girls are
coming out of the woods, lifting
their broken legs high, leaking secrets
from unfastened thighs, all the lies
whispered by strangers and swimming
coaches, and uncles, especially uncles,
who said spreading would be light
and easy, who put bullets in their chests
and fed their pretty faces to fire,
who sucked the mud clean                                                                                                    off their ribs, and decorated
their coffins with briar. Girls are coming
out of the woods, clearing the ground
to scatter their stories. Even those girls
found naked in ditches and wells,
those forgotten in neglected attics,
and buried in river beds like sediments
from a different century. They’ve crawled
their way out from behind curtains
of childhood, the silver-pink weight
of their bodies pushing against water,
against the sad, feathered tarnish
of remembrance. Girls are coming out
of the woods the way birds arrive
at morning windows—pecking
and humming, until all you can hear
is the smash of their miniscule hearts
against glass, the bright desperation
of sound—bashing, disappearing.
Girls are coming out of the woods.
They’re coming. They’re coming.

3/1/22 Workshop – A Poem by Serhiy Zhagan

They buried their son last winter

They buried their son last winter.
Strange weather for winter—rain, thunder.
They buried him quietly—everybody’s busy.
Who did he fight for? I asked. We don’t know, they say.
He fought for someone, they say, but who—who knows?
Will it change anything, they say, what’s the point now?

I would have asked him myself, but now—there’s no need.
And he wouldn’t reply—he was buried without his head.

It’s the third year of war; they’re repairing the bridges.
I know so many things about you, but who’d listen?
I know, for example, the song you used to sing.
I know your sister. I always had a thing for her.
I know what you were afraid of, and why, even.
Who you met that winter, what you told him.
The sky gleams, full of ashes, every night now.
You always played for a neighboring school.
But who did you fight for?

To come here every year, to weed dry grass.
To dig the earth every year—heavy, lifeless.
To see the calm after tragedy every year.
To insist you didn’t shoot at us, at your people.
The birds disappear behind waves of rain.
To ask forgiveness for your sins.
But what do I know about your sins?
To beg the rain to finally stop.
It’s easier for birds, who know nothing of salvation, the soul.

Free writing prompt:
Write about not being sure of another