West Coast Poets


 

 

As guest editor of the summer 2018 western poets issue of Persimmon Tree, I’ve taken pleasure in reading over 180 poems. Submissions ranged from pure, embryonic language-seeds to fully shaped, spacious, and magical vessels. I’ve chosen eleven that most move me. Their voices, topics, emotions, and images vary wildly. Yet for me, as a reader, I sense emerging from each one what Maxine Kumin has called “the order, the marvelous informing order.”  Each of the poems I’ve picked for this issue delights me with words “as pleasing to the ear as the meanings are to the mind,” to paraphrase Marianne Moore, as well as form that “is the bodying forth,” as Mary Caroline Richards says in Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person.I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have. With thanks.

 

Twelve Poems

 

Judith Skillman

Judith Skillman

The Quaking Aspen’s First Autumn

A few leaves yellow into the shadow
of yellow. The crown flutters, stem bends
to a wind that butterflies thin lamina
from Cherries and Big Leaf Maples amassed

on the grounds over years. Generations
have passed here, this house has borne other children.
Holes in stucco’d walls bear witness to gates
husbanded to the top of the staircase.

And will I take a leaf out of this new
book, this slender, silvered newcomer?
How begin again in crinkled tissue-

paper body whose skin bears the hues
of age? I hear the wind. I remember
a life lived. Its fresh, rich mulch. Its fat root.
 

Suzanne Edison

Suzanne Edison

Fire in the Ice

I train my muscles to the trail, cache fear
under Lodgepole pine and cedar trees, strain
my eyes toward meadows, long views of Mt. Rainier,
its tonic of heft, no need to explain
these edgy worries: disappearing snow, spears
of lightning burning my western terrain,
sage, grass, grouse and house unspared, and cancer
spreading like a glacier in my sister’s
bones. Down the scoured valley, I sling laments
and howls, swallowed by the river’s pockets
of booming bass tones and surging boulders
that urge my lips toward the sweat-sweet intent
of kissing each blistered pain, each unlocked
moment, letting them go without refrain.
 

Gail Entrekin

Gail Entrekin

Chances

That autumn night at my mother’s small apartment
I’d been tossing all night on the narrow daybed
in her alcove room. She came to the doorway
in her blue nightgown, asked if I was all right.
I can’t sleep, I said, sitting up.
Would you, she asked, tentatively,
almost politely, would you like to lie down
on my bed … on one side of my bed?
She carefully chose her words, did not say
beside me, or with me.  Quickly, before
I thought or felt what I wish now
I’d thought or felt: Oh no, I said.
No. I’ll be fine.
She backed away.
OK, she said, turning to her room.

And she was gone, and there never
came another chance
to lie beside my mother
in this life.
 

Linda Conroy

Linda Conroy

Still Sound

The audiologist, both business-like
and kind, speaks softly though a siren blows
outside her office as we listen to the wind
in nearby trees and hear the dump-trucks bang.
My brain starts racing like an engine’s sputter
when she tells me I need hearing aids.
She’s far ahead of where my thinking’s caught
still clinging to a carefree, youthful tale.
I know that I’ll hear laughter, players shouting,
fiddlers tuning, singing on the green.
I’ll know when the kettle whistles, hear
the back door banging, know if friends
come calling, keep confusion far away,
but I’ve heard more than I can hold today.
 

Penelope Scambly Schott

Penelope Scambly Schott

My Husband Has Atrial Fibrillation

Although you will die someday,
tonight your chest rises and falls evenly between our warm sheets.

Although you will die,
the curly hairs of your chest where they placed the electrodes
still swirl like the symmetrical patterns of magnetized iron filings.

Although you will die,
a soft mist moves over our house
just as it did when there was nothing here but forest,

and I welcome you daily
as the big-eyed birds welcome the false dawn.

Although
you spend a precious hour and a half every single Sunday morning
reading the entire Oregonian newspaper
and most especially the funnies,
where you giggle out loud and, comic strip by comic strip,
you keep on summoning me back to the dining room table to look,
while I’m busy trying
to get something else done,

I come, yes, I do come, each time you call for me to look,
I come back,
I do, I do, I come running.
 

Stephanie Striffler

Stephanie Striffler

Analemma

The Christmas tree, stripped of lights and star,
hulks against the early dawn window.

The Solstice is the shortest day, but not the latest sunrise
of the year. In order: earliest sunset,
winter solstice, latest sunrise.

The ascending accelerating song
of the golden-crowned kinglet
is the first birdsong we cease hearing
as we age.

The statue of the Virgin of Hope in Sevilla knows
everything about us; we have been telling
her our sorrows for centuries.

The first mirrors were pools
of dark still water collected in a vessel.

I start the morning coffee water to boil.
There is no one here
the creaking floor will wake.
 

Marri Champié

Marri Champié

The Weatherman

The polar vortex howls on the weather channel today.
How many will be frozen by the weatherman’s report?
It isn’t easy to ignore what news-terrorists say;
even I imagine they think of weather like a sport.
Bracing the storm with a microphone and no umbrella.
Slashed by slanted snow, glazed with ice, hat caught in the vortex,
“Am I on yet?” he screams into the wind’s a cappella
white wail. White noise, like the snowstorm, white like the icy hex,
terror-making face and words white-spilling from the TV.
I don’t watch the weather channel. I read seed catalogues.
Everyone has been frozen by this winter except me.
I ignore the acceptance of this icy pedagogue.
Like the snowstorm, I need no microphone to call for spring,
but she’s not on yet since no birds are left here that can sing.
 

Joan Moritz

Joan Moritz

Phalaenopsis

They stare from under stiff
cornettes of palest yellow:
seven starched peculiar
blossoms perched like brides
on sprung wire stalks; a clutch
of curious faces, puffed cheeks
red from huffing fervent
prayers; a bound bouquet
of consecrated beauties;
a paean to pure perfection,
intolerant of warmth or light.

For weeks they’ve watched me
read the news and sip sweet tea.
Now, their fading bonnets
looser, they nod. They know
how very far I am from God.
 

Susan Landgraf

Susan Landgraf

Under the Babylonian Willow

Trees in her life had not been personal
until her father cut a branch and she became
the Babylonian wearing the willow.
He knows not what he does, the priest intoned. Do not blame.

She grew afraid of forgiveness. She found
libraries where she discovered deciduous –
that state of shedding and wait – daughter cells and
cambium layers, heartwood. She learned how trees hush

around strangers, wedge cracks in the sidewalk.
Felled by the wind, they grow into nurse logs.
They dance on one leg, their crowns brushing sky – hawks,
robins, crows in their branches in full sun or fog.

On hillsides, in valleys – Ginkgo. Hazelnut. Pine. Aspen.
She watched for nimbuses. She prayed for baptism.
 

Ginger Dehlinger

Ginger Dehlinger

Horse Canyon

Eight hundred pounds of granite
dust-gray, smooth as river rock
hillock of wild oats
cresting massive shoulders,
tests the rim of the divide.
Sensing peril, obsidian heels pull back
before the rimrock starts to give.

Withered cliffs of ancient
dun and buckskin
barrel down a ravine
with the roar of a hundred cannons,
scree clattering in the tail,
kicking up dust until the last chestnut
rolls into a nickering stream.
 

Kathleen Joy Anderson

Kathleen Joy Anderson

Nye Beach: a Ghazal

A lonely twilight figure moves along the water’s edge
As the sun drops reluctantly beyond the farthest edge

And the wind-made cloud breaks trace its falling path
As colors move and grow and change and make a sharper edge

Toward night time, while the surf-foam gently holds the light
Until it softens and fades and slowly forms a tender edge.

Far off above the new horizon patches of lingering light
Contrast with surf-line, now become a darker edge

While I, reluctant to see this wind-blown sea-day’s end,
Would stay the movement toward the western edge.
 

Christianne Balk

Christianne Balk

Georgia O’Keefe’s Pineapple
            Territory of Hawaii, 1939

The open breezeways arch wide-eyed, startled
by latticed walls allowing Myna birds

to squall freely in the guest cottage eaves.
Such a brief-winged architecture here! Festooned

with nets of light embracing me in dun
shadow. My retinas snap with every sharp

whetstone-sparked whistle. What am I doing
here? The company manager intones

you’re here to paint a simple pineapple.

From this window I can see indentured
field workers bend and rise, fourteen, fifteen

hours a day, seven days a week, women
and children alongside the men. Trenching

the bromeliads. Another migraine stabs
my eyelids. Trumpet vine, hibiscus, and bright

lipped acanthus spike the recoiling air.
If only I could find a breakwater

edging the rough surf, a quiet bluff where
I might unfold my easel, plant my feet—

 

Kathleen Joy Anderson grew up in Oregon, moving often enough to have lived in almost every area of the state. She enjoyed writing in college, but stopped thinking of herself as a writer during the years she spent as an elementary classroom teacher and later a school librarian, while raising two children. Now living in Portland to be near her grandchildren, she has taken a series of writing workshops at The Attic Institute. She often finds inspiration at the Sylvia Beach Hotel, the hotel for booklovers, overlooking Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon.

Christianne Balk is the award-winning author of three poetry collections: Bindweed  (Macmillan, Walt Whitman Award), Desiring Flight (Purdue University Press), and The Holding Hours (University of Washington Press). Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including the New Yorker, The New Republic, and The Atlantic Monthly. She lives in Seattle, where she writes and teaches. Balk travels frequently into the Cascade Mountains.

Dell Award winning author, Marri Champié has ridden horseback into the heart of the world –the Sawtooth Wilderness – countless times. Pushcart nominated for poetry in 2015, her work has appeared in Cicada, ROAR, The Tishman Review, Alcyone, Abyss & Apex, and others. She won the Boise State University President’s Writing Award for fiction & poetry in 2013, and an Oregon State Poetry Award in 2018. Her novel, Silverhorn, releases from Kasva Press in 2018. Champié works as a wildfire support driver and lives on a small ranch overlooking the Idaho Prairie with her horses and Jack Russell terriers. Website: WriteIdahoWriter.com

Linda Conroy is retired from the field of social work after a career as a Child Protective Services Worker, manager, meeting facilitator, and advocate for people with unique needs.  As a writer she finds that poetry serves well to honor the complexity and simplicity of human nature, that its rhythms and sounds connect us with our inner places, where we discover the unexpected in ourselves and others.  She enjoys singing and playing m usic, as well as facilitating poetry groups. Her work has appeared in various journals.

Ginger Dehlinger writes in multiple genres, and though she doesn’t call herself a poet, she has been recognized for her poetry. “If I Wore Sensible Shoes” appeared in the 2013 Gold Man Review. “Ghost Trees at Midnight” was a Best Poem finalist in the 2016 Central Oregon Writer’s Guild contest. Another poem, “A Bar Stool’s Lament” received an honorable mention in the 79th Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. She has published two novels, Brute Heart and Never Done. A graduate of the University of Oregon, Dehlinger lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband, Richard, and a cat named Kiki.

Suzanne Edison is a Seattle poet and the author of a chapbook, The Moth Eaten World published by Finishing Line Press. Her poetry can be found in JAMA; Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine; Bombay Gin; The Naugatuck River Review, among other places. Other work has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review; The Seattle Review of Books; Spillway; The Examined Life Journal, and in the following anthologies: Face to Face: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism and Awakening, ed. Joy Harjo & Brenda Peterson, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux; The Healing Art of Writing, Volume One.  www.seedison.com

Gail Entrekin’s five books of poems include, most recently, The Art of Healing and Change (Will Do You Good), which was nominated for a Northern California Book Award. Her poems were finalists for the Pablo Neruda Prize from Nimrod International Journal and won the Western States Award from Persimmon Tree, both in 2011, and won the Women’s National Book Association Prize in 2016.  Poetry Editor of Hip Pocket Press, she edits the on-line journal of the environment Canary (canarylitmag.org). She lives in the hills east of San Francisco Bay.

Susan Landgraf has published more than 400 poems, essays, and articles in journals, magazines, and newspapers. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Margie, Nimrod, Bellingham Review, The Laurel Review and Ploughshares, among others. Her full-length poetry collection What We Bury Changes the Ground was published by Tebot Bach in 2017; she’s also published a chapbook, Other Voices and Student Reflection Journal for Student Success, Prentice Hall. She taught at Highline College for 27 years and at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2002, 2008, 2010, and 2012. A writing exercise book is forthcoming from Two Sylvias Press.

Joan Moritz was born in New York City but long ago chose Seattle and the beautiful Pacific Northwest as the home of her heart. Retired from a career crunching numbers, she now crunches words, transcribes books into braille, and sings out loud as often as possible. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Blue Lyra, Panoplyzine, Poetica, Postcard Poems, The Fourth River, and Vitamin Zzz, and will appear in the book A Walk with Nature: Poetic Encounters that Nourish the Soul.

Penelope Scambly Schott’s verse biography A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth received an Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Recent books include Serpent Love: A Mother-Daughter Epic about a struggle with her adult daughter, along with an essay in which the daughter gives her point of view, and Bailing the River, a poetry collection full of dogs, coyotes, and the unsolvable and sometimes funny mysteries of the ordinary. Her newest is House of the Cardamom Seed. Scott lives in Portland and Dufur, Oregon where she teaches an annual poetry workshop.

Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions, 2017. She is the recipient of a Eric Mathieu King Fund Award from the Academy of American Poets, and an Artist Trust GAP grant. Her work has appeared in Shenandoah, Cimarron Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, and other journals. Visit www.judithskillman.com.

Stephanie Striffler has written poetry almost all of her life, including during the decades she has worked at the Oregon Department of Justice as a lawyer for the people of Oregon. Her poems have been published in Calyx, Voicecatcher, and forthcoming in Verseweavers. She enjoys birding excursions with her husband, and at current count has recorded 55 bird species in their Portland back yard.

View More: Next piece , Home, Archive.

4 thoughts on “West Coast Poets

  1. Charlene Neely

    As always a wonderful selection of poems! I especially liked Gail Entrekin’s Chance and Stephanie Striffler’s Analemma the last lines of which will haunt me for quite a while.
    There is no one here
    the creaking floor will wake.

    Again all were terrific!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *