Category Archives: Blog

Damen O’Brien-Peter Porter Prizewinner, 2017

I first read Damen’s poetry a couple of years ago and was moved by the fine detail (often science-based), the intelligence of his work and his political and moral stance. Each poem is so beautifully crafted with elegance and flair that I’ve been greedy to seek out his published pieces. There aren’t that many to date. He seems to have won prizes but not appeared in too many journals. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of his work. I hope there’s a publisher out there with an offer.

 

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                                                                                    Image from Mascara Review

Fiddler Crabs

Before the Egyptians had glyphed the inundation
you were already a worshipper of the tide,

building brief altars in the soupy midden mess
of the returning mud, and the retreating sea.
Before the spring-masted marinas
hung on the warm swell like the bloat of a dead bream
you cultivated the root forests and played at empire.

 Even then, sharp sawing beaks and ruffled shadows
could have you shuffling sideways into your tunnels like magicans:
neat sifters and scavengers, daintily testing
the rich silt pickings, before there was recycling.
You are courtly jousters, holding up the glaives of your claws
even as the wash shudders and swirls around you.

Before the Mayans and their millennial calendars could,
before the yabby pumpers and the sand-dredgers will,
you know what is coming, in your soft-shelled fevers:
the surges seeded from the burning Devonian forests,
the punishments promised, and the last inundation climbing over the flood-lands
and tumbling you from the altars and the seedpods of your world.

Highly commended W.B. Yeats Poetry Prize, 2015

 

 

The Flinch

We knew about the flinch, because
time-lapse photography showed
bruised leaves and cut-stems curling,
nearby branches swaying away
in distress, through the same filter
we’ve witnessed rival canopies clashing
and striving in bitter border disputes,
but now we know that in silent outrage
and perhaps also in plea, each plant calls
to its neighbour in chemical messages,
if it is assailed by caterpillars or
by the predations of grazing cattle,
not for its own sake, but to warn
its neighbour to furl flowers or close leaves.
So, anthropomorphic enough to make
vegetarians quail, and meat eaters
smile around the edges of their steak:
empathy Dahl and sympathy salads
and indigestible moral dilemmas.

Published in Blue Pepper, 2015

 

What Poem Would The Mining Companies Tell Lionel Fogarty?

In between howls that could be poems,
Lionel tells us that he is teaching the black kids poetry.
To a bunch of white middle class mainstreamers,
he’s reciting poems in monochrome bullets
about hate, and guilt and history, and we don’t miss the irony.
In between the dressing-down that could be poems,
he asks us what will the mining companies teach
his black kids about themselves? Every other word
is the whip, and the blessing: black. Black, black, black
is the poem Lionel Fogarty tells the mining companies,
and the mining companies who know about holes in the ground
echo it back to him. Black, black, black.

Published in Mascara Review, 2015

 

Bio

Damen is a Queensland poet and joint winner of the Peter Porter Prize, 2017 (with Louis Klee). He has been writing for the last 20 years and works as a Contracts Manager for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle company. His poetry has been published in Cordite, Mascara Review, Island and The Courier Mail, and has won or been highly commended in the Yeats Poetry Prize, the Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Award, Ipswich Poetry Festival, the Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Prize, and the FAW Tasmania Poetry Prize.

 

Read the shortlist here along with Damen’s winningpoem.
https://www.australianbookreview.com.au/abr-online/current-issue/march/3918-2017-porter-prize-shortlist

Hear his interview with Michael Cathcart and where he got his idea for the winning poem. You might be surprised.

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/booksandarts/2017-peter-porter-poetry-prize/8383004

Sabotage reviews our new book.

To Have To Follow by Julie Maclean & Terry Quinn

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Reviewed by Charlie Baylis –

To Have To Follow, a pamphlet of twenty four poems, is the result of a collaboration between Julie Maclean and Terry Quinn, two writers who “come from similar worlds; both born in England in the fifties and both travellers and poetry lovers.” Though they wrote To Have To Follow together, Terry and Julie are separated by thousands of miles, as Julie lives in Australia and Terry in Lancashire. The names Terry and Julie remind me of the couple in ‘Paul Weller’s favourite song’, Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks (“Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station every Friday night.”) which is fitting, as Waterloo Sunset (originally written as Liverpool Sunset) belongs to, and is emblematic of, Maclean and Quinn’s baby-boomer generation.

Their jointly penned foreword evokes a certain romance: “winning that prize [the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize] and launching our books together in the Black Country that same year put us on the same page. We continued writing to each other, sharing ideas about poetry, publishing and the weather.”. A poetry pamphlet is without doubt the most divine product of love between two poets (whether that love is platonic or romantic). Though all of the poems in the pamphlet were written as response pieces, in the final two, Maclean and Quinn’s lines of longitude and latitude are inseparable:

From under an old army blanket
we watched the sun rise over Friars Heel
before high wire and solstice porn ruined our Druid fantasy
[from ‘Stonehenge in the Ley of the Dark’ [Maclean]]

a hidden track
Stonehenge by moonlight
the finding of a tump
[from ‘Curious’ [Quinn]]

I really like how uninhibited Maclean is: ‘solstice porn ruined our Druid fantasy’. Writing such absurd, potentially embarrassing details somewhere so sacred is brave; dare I say it, there is not enough solstice porn and Druid fantasy in contemporary poetry. Of the two poets, Maclean strikes me as the more imaginative: there are some outrageously silly moments in ‘Emily Dickinson as an Octopus with a Pre-death Plan’ (title worthy of a prize alone) and ‘Walking with Joan Didion in Central Park’, where:

Armoured in a meteor of bangs
she shifts through ragged spans
of Manhattan schist happy to return
to the Angel of the Waters

It’s always good to see more ink spilled on Joan Didion; most of it seems to be soaked up by male poets of the New York School. In contrast to Maclean’s abrasive, highly entertaining, delirium, Terry Quinn’s poetry is quieter and more reflective. His descriptions are nicely metered and evocative:

textiles bending and
sine waves breaking on
shores of smooth grey bark
[from ‘that New Idea’]

This follows the contours of the British literary canon, from which I would pick out Larkin and Geoffrey Hill as his most pronounced influences. Quinn is a gentle soul:

in the local Odeon
watching Casablanca
at midday on a Monday

and I am alone
[from ‘On not being there’]

In moments like these it is very easy to relate to Quinn, although his poetry is not as fun as Maclean’s: it doesn’t turn me on in the same way, though I am sure fans of more cerebral verse will find much to savour.

It is a beautiful thing that Terry has found Julie and it is a beautiful thing that Julie has found Terry. Furthermore it is great that they are sharing and writing about their experiences. To Have To Follow is a touching and sweetly-penned poetry pamphlet. I will leave the last lines of my review to Ray Davies of The Kinks:

Terry and Julie cross over the river
where they feel safe and sound
and they don’t need no friends
as long as they gaze on Waterloo sunset
they are in paradise

 

Review of my collaboration with Terry.

To Have to Follow: Julie Maclean & Terry Quinn, Indigo Dreams

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Collaborations between poets are interesting and, in the age of the internet, becoming more popular between poets from different countries. In this case, the collaboration comes from two writers who have certain things in common (they were both born in England and share a love of poetry and travel) but now live thousands of miles apart – Julie Maclean from the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia, and Terry Quinn from Lancashire in England.

Malcean and Quinn were joint winners of the Indigo Dreams inaugural Geoff Stevens Memorial poetry prize, with their collections being published in 2013. After launching their books together they remained in contact, and then decided to start using each other’s poems as triggers. This collaborative pamphlet contains 24 poems, (12 by Maclean and 12 by Quinn), written as response pieces. In each of the pairings Maclean’s poems appear first, which suggests that Quinn is always the responder – but this need not necessarily be the case. The way the poems are set out means that we will never know.

The title sounds like a fragment from a sentence suggestive of “I am going to have to follow that with this” or, in the context of food, the dessert that follows on from the main course. Even when the phrase appears in the very last poem it is still somewhat elusive in terms of its meaning – a man following a woman into a medieval building.

The content is global in its reach: there are references to planets, oceans, seas, continents, countries, geology, glaciers, the Ice Age. The images on the cover are redolent of travel and exploration. Some of the locations are firmly grounded in England: Stonehenge, Bristol, Birmingham; sometimes they are more specific such as a cinema or a dental surgery. Other locations are harder to pin down with any certainty. There are literary references to RM Ballantyne, Thomas Hardy, Lewis Carroll, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joan Didion and Emily Dickinson.

Stylistically, Maclean and Quinn are poles apart. Maclean is the more elusive whereas Quinn’s poems are grounded in the everyday. Maclean is the more daring. In ‘Garuda’ – the title is a reference to a Hindu demigod who is part man and part bird – she writes:

 

At the end, once I’d arrived, swallow from the south,

I barely recognised my bird father. It was his pecked look.

 

The ribs of his cage beat a hymn rhythm on his heart.

 

It wouldn’t stop, like some wind-up toy you tire of,

like the long-time sick and dying.

 

His djembe throat drummed on while I sat and held his

featherless wing.

 

Maclean’s “Brief Encounter Poet to Poet” is a visual poem that describes half a circle or half a globe, which is almost the distance between them.

Quinn’s poems are spiced with a quiet, erudite wit. They are gems waiting to be discovered. Poems such as ‘The Rules of Detection’ which is split into five parts headed up by the questions Who / What / When / Where / Why? and ‘Statements of Accounts’ are cleverly written with attention paid to detail. The poem ‘Seven Seas’ which is set in a dental surgery is equally well-crafted:

 

This shouldn’t be difficult

North, Irish, Black,

and I’m just relaxing

as the problem of the Atlantic

springs to mind

 

I open my mouth

just a bit wider

should I move my tongue

or leave it like Italy

dipping into the Med

that’s another …

 

Finding the connections between each pair of poems is half the fun of reading them. Sometimes they can be found in the titles; in one instance the words in the last line of the first poem become the title of the next poem. Sometimes it is the time of year, or a theme. Occasionally it is a phrase or even a single word that is repeated across poems, a literary reference, or a particular feature in the landscape that is picked up on. The links are subtle and not too obvious, and this is one of the strengths of this collection.

Neil Leadbeater

 

Julie Maclean and Terry Quinn, To Have to Follow, Indigo Dreams, £6.75

 

 

 

 

Holly Amos of the Poetry Foundation says ‘Just.Sub.Mit.’


To coincide with the May issue of POETRY showcasing Australian poets, (hurrah), I invited the patient, compassionate, warm and super-efficient Holly Amos to give us a tour around her role as editorial assistant with the Poetry Foundation (Chicago) and her other life as poet with her first full collection imminent. She also tells us why she wouldn’t like Don Share’s job.

Picture of me 10Hollys book                                                                                                                      Book design Heidi Reszies

When I asked Holly what animal she was she said Arya Stark from Game of Thrones; two-legged, headstrong, independent, contemptuous of traditional feminine pursuits and trained in Braavosi style of swordfighting. I imagine this might be handy dealing with poets who don’t get their paperwork in on time.

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                                                Image: http://comicvine.gamespot.com/

Holly agreed to a Q&A and to sharing with us some of her sublime poems. I first read Holly’s poems a year ago and they are spare and beautiful heartbreaks. If you want to read more, you can find her first chapbook here:  This Is A Flood

Q&A with Holly Amos

How long have you worked for POETRY, what are the joys and frustrations of the work and would you like Don Share’s job?

About 2.5 years, and before that I worked as the Poetry Foundation Library Assistant, so I’ve been with the Foundation for a bit. Joys: a beautiful building where nobody questions if you’re sitting on the floor to work or have taken your shoes off; emailing with contributors – poets are seriously wonderful people and it’s really fun to see what their email personalities are like; reading, copyediting and fact-checking all the poems that we publish – it’s such a different way to read poetry! Also, I have incredible coworkers. They’re weird, funny, brilliant, and kind. Frustrations: reading, copyediting, and fact-checking all the poems that we publish! Some of the most amazing poems are terrible to copyedit because they’re just loaded with so much information that needs to be verified – it can be really tedious, though a fantastic way to learn. I’m sure it’s no surprise but some poets are not great at returning paperwork and all the follow-up can be a bit frustrating, but it’s been a great lesson for me about how I can make the lives of admin folks a lot easier!

Would I like Don Share’s job? No. I’m pretty sure you’re only allowed to sleep 4 hours a night and receive emails intravenously.

How many poems do you receive each week, what are the chances of being selected and how many readers do you employ?

It ranges from about 500 to 800 submissions a week, so depending on how many poems are included in each submission … a lot! Christina Pugh is our consulting editor, and she and Don Share (the editor) read everything – there’s nobody else! A few things get passed around for feedback, but it’s really just them. Because we get so many submissions, the changes of being accepted are small, percentage-wise. But the good news is that even if you get a rejection you know one of the editors actually read your work, not just a reader.

What is the process of sorting poems and how are poems selected for an issue?

That’s honestly almost entirely Don. Basically I send him an email reminder to let him know when I need copy by and he just hands it over. Sometimes there’s input from the Assistant Editor, Lindsay Garbutt, or the Art Director, Fred Sasaki (who often brings visual work Don’s way), but it’s really mostly Don. Of course we’ve had a lot of themed issues and portfolios lately and that’s another story. Those issues have another set of hands really shaping the issue, though Don works really closely with them in doing so, from what I understand.
Tell us how you came to poetry yourself. What were your early influences?

Being a weirdo kid in a small town. I was just always observing. I used to walk the corn and bean fields around our house just looking for rocks, thinking. And I’ve always been a big reader and a big feeler, which are basically the poetry genes, right? I had a great English teacher in 7th grade, Mrs. Kendall, and that’s the first time I really remember reading and thinking about poetry. I was also the kid who would buy a CD and go home immediately and open the booklet to read the lyrics. I’ve just always been obsessed with expression. In terms of specific poetry influences I don’t remember really early ones. I was always more into fiction as a kid, but at some point in undergrad poetry got a hold of me. I was really into Jim Daniels’s Blue Jesus and Bob Hicok’s This Clumsy Living. Those are the first individual collections of poetry I really remember getting into, and then I just started going to Barnes and Noble and buying lit mags and reading them cover to cover.

What books do you have next to your bed or most recently on your bookshelves? Emilia Phillips’s Groundspeed, francine j. harris’s play dead, and Gabriel Gudding’s Literature for Nonhumans. They’re all so different, and I love them all. Apart from poetry, I’m always reading/thinking about/recommending John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce, which is nonfiction. That book changed me in very real, tangible ways.
Can you describe a day in the life of an editorial assistant at POETRY? 

30% email, 30% copyediting, 20% paperwork, 10% typesetting, 5% Submittable, 3% devising checklists and ways to be more efficienct, 2% green tea

 What advice would you give to poets who want to be published in magazines like POETRY? 

SUBMIT! Seriously, #1 most common reason for not being published in Poetry is folks simply not submitting. Just. Sub. Mit.

Can you see any styles in poetry trending at the moment? 

Work that’s political, social-justice focused. I wouldn’t say it’s trending so much as poets are just responding to the world at large, which is a world in flux. Big things are happening, are trying to happen, and poetry is right there.

What do you feel grateful for?

Earth Balance vegan mac and cheese, the 4 non-human people I live with, Bravo TV, and being able to connect with poets on a daily basis, either in person, via email, or over the internet. By-and-large, I just think poets are the best people. I feel very fortunate to be so connected to so many other folks who genuinely are trying to better themselves and better the world. And who really support one another.

If you were an animal, what would you be? Arya Stark?

What colour are you? Some gorgeous shade of gray.

What animal would Don Share be? I think we should ask him – I’d love to know what animal Don would WANT to be.

If you had superpowers, what would you do with them? 

Use them! I’ve always wished I could know what other people were thinking, even though in reality that would probably be horrendously depressing.

Tell us about your new book. 

It’s my first! It’s due out from H_NGM_N, this fantastic indie publisher here in the States, sometime this year (fingers crossed). I would say there are about three types of poems in the book: animal rights ones, relationship ones, and existential ones. There’s a lot of light, but not a lot of lightness!

I think you also asked me how much time I devote to my own practice: It really varies. Right now it’s a lot of copyediting and proofing the book before it goes to the printer. I moved into a house and anytime I change physical living locations I feel like I have to get into a new routine. I don’t have a lot of free time at home, at the moment, but I’m in the yard a lot with the dogs and on the train a lot, so I’ve started typing poems into the notepad in my phone. I just try to take advantage whenever I feel like writing. I don’t force it. If I ever feel like I really need to do some poetry-related work then I’ll revise or submit or just read.

Thank you, Holly

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Poems

I am deep in tear right now

Deeply feel the middle open
but unable to feel wind.

Too many leaves stuck there?
Too many snouts not my own, still covered

in something thick. I find
the transformative:

The childless thing that happens
so that people can drink milk.

Tattoo artists interested in putting
animal rights on my body.

Tearing contributor checks along
a great perforation
.

Every second a cell turns over
or dies or grows into a beautiful cancer

that enables a huge trunk of love
to move out of the ground.


First published in TYPO 22

Today is an argument against clouds

both flimsy
& miraculous.

Nobody talks about happiness

how it turns hair to mercury shot
to the ground

& how eyelashes break a cheek.
I can be this woman

whose eyelids peel back

into flightless moths
burning for light.


First published in ‘
Pinwheel’

This is a flood and we are turbulent with color.

I.
We make good of this rain-punched scene
all color-drained & pallor

befriending dark patches of sky & culling sticks
to kindle.

Who has never seen a bruise
never tasted their own flaring skin?

II.
I open the book of colors & read to you.

It seems light is all we need
to do things.

To believe there is a road where you hold your finger
to mine—where we are is so dark
& full
of blown stars.

Luster is the color you choose

I choose fog
& we move.

III.
You say you know how hard it is just to hold a book
in your hand      the black spine      the birds dying
every time a poem ends.

This poem appears in e-chapbook ‘This is a Flood’ (H_NGM_N Books) and Pinwheel.


We are all writing poems about you and your deep, wobbly voice.

This poem is not about you, Frank, but you can take a nap here.
This poem is about some other things

like music, and all that stuff we hear

all the time. The rolling over of the person in bed
next to you (or me). I like that sound coming toward me—
makes me want to lay down for quite a good long time

and rub fingers.

I am trying to make something.
I am trying to make the violins and the grass and the soft gray sidewalk.

Here, here is the rough spot. Here is the beginning. Here is the rug burn
and the rug burn and it feels a little good
in that way of a thing happening.

Does the poem know what is going to happen?

Poem I am quitting my job. Poem I am making a space for you
in this world. In Lakeview.
With an apartment to write your babies in.

(Fat little poem babies.)

Bring your friends, poem—tell them O’Hara is taking a nap
and there is music and cupcakes

and people looking so cool (and a little rusty)
all rubbing together it starts little fires everywhere.
We just want to stop

drop and roll on the cold concrete floor, looking up at all the stars stuck
in the sky.

First published in ‘Pinwheel’

Biography

amos-cvrHolly received a BFA from Bowling Green State University and an MFA from Columbia College Chicago. She is the author of the chapbook This Is A Flood (H_NGM_N BKS, 2012). She co-curates The Dollhouse Reading Series and is the Editorial Assistant for Poetry magazine and an Assistant Editor for the online journal Pinwheel. Her poems have appeared in The BakeryBateauForklift, Ohio; Ilk, LEVELERMatterPhantom LimbRHINO; and elsewhere.

Cover design  Afton Wilky

LINKS

The Aussie Issue of POETRY here with poems from Gig Ryan, Sarah Holland-Batt, Samuel Wagan-Watson, Michael Farrell, Jaya Savige, Robbie Coburn and more!

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/toc/detail/88998

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Notable Native: Holly Amos – YouTube

http://www.hollyamos.net

Animal Rights & Veganism

Footy and Art Collide

I do love our Ian Potter Gallery (NGV) in Federation Square. It’s just the right scale and is light and bright (unlike the gloomy mausoleum down the road which is grey, vaulty, clattery and unfriendly). I like to see the way the art is moved around every few months and invariably go in on spec and am always blown away by the new exhibitions.

AFL-Pots

On a recent trip to the desert we came upon Hermannsburg and the old mission. The town was depressing with banners across the supermarket warning against domestic violence, broken vehicles abandoned in gardens and an air of neglect in the mission where Namatjira’s art lies dusty and unloved. To then stumble across Our Land is Alive by the Hermannsburg Potters in our Ian Potter was more thrilling than I can express.

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Not only had they made marvellous pots but by decorating them with footy scenes and the finest indigenous players, these pots leapt off their plinths. My photos don’t do justice to the colours and the positive energy in the gallery but I have to say the place was buzzing with all ages.

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I’m not the slightest bit interested in footy but I love this exhibition for all that it represents. Some may feel it panders to Western values, but I view it as a meeting place of cultures, a healthy confluence of youth and experience and a dynamic way to promote healing and working together.   http://hermannsburgpotters.com.au/about/the-hermannsburg-potters/

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Bonkers in op shops

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Six weeks ago it all started going bad. A weekend with the girls took me to Sydney where the Grayson Perry exhibition was on. It was all good, brilliant really, including a walk from Bondi to Bronte and the Waverley cemetery with Henry Lawson in residence. 37 degrees was a tad warm but we barely broke into a glow. But within hours we’d gone from artistic revelry to Cheapstar aviation hell. Five hours in Sydney airport with Bloody Mary’s at $16 a pop. All because of a bit of thunder and lightning.You’d think Sydney would see enough of that to dodge the problems and keep planes airborne. No.

When I finally got back home where nothing looked changed from five days before, the man announces he’s ‘done his back’. That could have been annoying except it gave me a good chance to get to the op, charity, thrift shops to source him a proper chair. And this is what I found. A wavy Shaker-style chair that might have been in Nelson’s cabin. It’s in my lounge room now but so lovely I wont let him sit in it. Just needs a bit of paint stripper and back to blonde. A steal at $30 and nobody will ever get to sit in it.

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Trouble is he’s had major surgery so not mobile and sleeping a lot. A bit like having a baby at home and we know what that means. Three hours to yourself in the afternoon. I took the thinking time to come up with an idea for a book cover for my new book. Our new book, actually. It’s a pamphlet that UK poet Terry Quinn and I have been working on for the last year. They’re reply-poems which we’ve called ‘To have to Follow.’ Terry is from wet, wild and woolly Preston, Lancs and I’m writing from the Surf Coast, Victoria so diametrically opposed weather wise. But we were joint winners of the Geoff Stevens Poetry Prize (Indigo Dreams) and have kept in contact ever since as mentors and friends. I’ve fiddled with the image so it’s abstract but you get the idea. we both like a bit of travel whenever we get the chance. I dug out the man’s old hiking boots complete with cobwebs and found my old Readers Digest Atlas. I must remember to make it nothing like Kei Miller’s.

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I’m looking forward to poems coming up in Poetry Salzburg, Under the Radar (16 already out) and Cordite. Poems currently in Plumwood Mountain thanks to Tricia Dearborn.

In the meantime there’s a whiff of autumn in the air and the need to revamp some old clothes and bling. I’m going androgynous Tilda Swinton this year. Have been buying lots of browns and tans from local op shops. Spent this morning repairing earrings and shoes.Badly. Brown pinstripe trilby to go with everything. Looking for a feather.

Reading a bio of Frida Kahlo after presenting Pascale Petit’s poetry at an event last week. Also ‘Landmarks’, Robert Macfarlane and Colm Toibin’s ‘The Empty Family’. Have been enjoying Jane Hirshfield and have just ordered Ada Limon’s ‘Bright Dead Things’.

 

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