Last month, DM O'Connor reviewed EJ Koh’s collection of poems Lesser Love. In addition to being selected winner of the Pleiades Press Editors Prize for Poetry in 2017, O’Connor offers this praise: “It is clear that each page stands alone as an example of true contemporary poetry. It is clear you should buy this book, memorize all the poems, then give it to a friend who need to be affirmed that poetry is far from dead.”
At the close of the review, O’Connor notes that Koh will even write love letters to her readers, just for the asking. Intrigued, I visited her website, where she states, “I am writing a thousand love letters to strangers by hand.”
Her July 26, 2016 blog post entitled, “It’s Okay, I Love You” explains how she came to this task, beginning the entry with:
“The past nine months, my life has become unrecognizable. When I say this out loud, it means who I am is unrecognizable. But I now see myself for the first time.
“In February, I hoped to write again; beginning was also deciding. I’d once said, 'I’m sick of writing because I’m sick of myself.' To be kinder towards my person, I didn’t go back to that place. On a Friday evening, I was pressed for new perspective. I decided to handwrite a thousand love letters.”
She goes on to explain why the handwriting, why the love – which seems it needs less explaining in our current world that feels imbued with endless hate.
So, I wrote to EJ. I sent her an e-mail, including some details about myself, as she requests, “& add a struggle,” which I did. A couple weeks later, I received a hand-addressed envelope postmarked from Seattle. By then, I had forgotten about my request, and didn’t know EJ was on the west coast, so I was pleasantly surprised to open the envelope and find a two-page, handwritten “love letter.” Mine was numbered 62, and included thoughtful commentary and insight gleaned from information I had shared with her, including my struggle.
A love letter? If love means reaching out to a total stranger, to recognize the work they do, what they care about and what they are struggling with; to treat someone with concern and care and affirmation; to not judge and to just be kind and share in someone’s perspective with seriousness and some humor – then yes. This was the best love letter I’ve ever received.
What a difference writers can make in another person’s life. And all it takes is who we are and what we have, shared with another. So simple, so (nearly) free, and yet – so profound.
My thanks to EJ. I hope others who share in this experience have as great an appreciation. May we all “promise to notice our light every day.”
The most recent issue of Michigan Quarterly Review (Winter 2018) opens with Associate Editor Keith Taylor's "What is Found There: Poetry at Michigan," commenting on this issue's special feature. He recounts the Spring 2017 200th anniversary celebration at University of Michigan, which included a day-long conference entitled "Poetry at Michigan." This was a "continuation of two symposia done over the previous few years: one on Theodore Roethke, and the other focising on Robert Hayden and his work."
This issue of MQR has now become the even larger discussion of poets and their connections to UofM, including: Donald Hall, "an important professor" at UofM for almost twenty years; an unpublished interview with Seamus Heaney "a regular visitor for almost a quarter of a century, both before and after his Nobel Prize"; Francey Oscherwitz, and undergraduate at the university thirty-five years ago; Hannah Webster, "a recent graduate of the Zell Writing Program," who "writes about her experience with the Prison Creative Arts Project," including works from Michigan prison students; and Bob Hicock, not a UofM grad, but who lived in Ann Arbor for some twenty years, has contributed "a provocative essay on the necessary and inevitable changes happening in contemporary American poetry."
The Greensboro Review Spring 2018 issue features the winners of The Robert Watson Literary Prizes:
Eli Cranor for his story, "Don't Know Tough"
Alison Powell [pictured] for her poem "from The Book of Revelation"
This annual contest awards $1000 for both fiction and poetry as well as publication and closes each year on September 15.
Three poems by Elizabeth Hoover, winner of the Boulevard 2017 Poetry Contest for Emerging Poets, as selected by Contest Judge Edward Nobles, are featured in the newest Spring 2018 issue. Works by honorable mention poets Lea Anderson and Elizabeth Eagle are also included.
This annual contest awards $1,000 and publication for the winning group of three poems by a poet who has not yet published a book of poetry with a nationally distributed press. The current contest is open until June 1, 2018.
Journal of the Month is an incredible resource for writers, readers, teachers, students, librarians – does that leave anyone out?
As a general subscriber, you will receive a new literary journal by the tenth of each month, never receiving the same publication twice during your subscription. If you already subscribe to some journals, you just let them know, and they will choose others for you. Yes, there are human beings making these selections, not automated machines!
For teachers, Co-Founder Jenn Scheck-Kahn (aka one of the humans behind this marvelous enterprise), will work with you to select four magazines you’d like to teach. Each student will then receive one publication a month – based on a delivery schedule you develop together, so that the publications arrive in advance of when you plan to teach them. Instructors receive a free set of the copies they plan to teach. Now is the time to plan those readings for the next school year!
Journal of the Month is a super easy gift idea! If you have writers or readers on your holiday or birthday list, what better way to support their interests!
Subscribers can select from 4, 6, 8, 12, and even 24 months.
Try it! See if you like it (how could you not?!), then sign up for more!
Join in National Poetry Month celebrations!
While supplies last, you can request a free copy of the 2018 National Poetry Month poster from the Academy of American Poets, designed by AIGA Medal and National Design Award-winning designer Paula Scher. The design celebrates typography and is suggestive of concrete poetry and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.
April 26 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Carry a poem with you and share it with others! The Academy of American Poets provides a PDF Guide to Celebrating Poetry in Schools, Communities & Businesses, which includes a selection of pocket-sized poems (also cellphone, snapshot sized). Carry and share!
Teach This Poem features a poem each week from the Academy's online collection accompanied by commentary and interdisciplinary resources and activities. Good for K-12 as well as early college.
Dear Poet Project invites grades five through twelve (Common Core lesson plan available) to write letters in response to poems written by poets connected with the Academy of American Poets. Deadline: April 30, 2018 for consideration for publication on Poets.org in 2018 as well as select letters receiving a response.
ReadWriteThink, the educational resource partnering with National Council of Teachers of English and International Literacy Association, provides classroom activities, websites, and related resources for teachers and parents of K-12 students.
Reading Rockets, the national multimedia project from WETA Public Broadcasting, has a full page of resources: Poets on Poetry videos; Learning Through Poetry links to resources and organizations; Poetry Booklists; Video interviews with children's poets; ideas for librarians; and a full list of activities.
American Life in Poetry features a weekly poem with brief commentary from Poet Laurate of the United States 2004-2006 Ted Kooser. Print and online news sources can sign up to reprint the columns.
NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month, is an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April. Best to sign up early, but check it out this year to prepare yourself for next!
FIELD Magazine Editor David Young writes:
"As FIELD 98, our Spring 2018 issue, arrives, it's time to let you know that just two more numbers are scheduled: #99, Fall 2018, and #100, Spring 2019. Many have expressed dismay at learning that FIELD will close down, but both David Walker and I feel the need to free ourselves from the burden of editorship. Nobody thought, when the magazine began in 1969, that it would last this long and become such an institution. All good things eventually terminate, however, and fifty years and one hundred issues make for good round numbers.
"We're hoping to organize a farewell event at next year's AWP meeting. Meanwhile, we're very grateful to our fellow editors, our contributors, and our subscribers for their support and enthusiasm. Also, of course, to Oberlin College for its hospitality. It isn't easy to say goodbye. Thank you for caring and for loving FIELD all these many years."
Thank you David Young (top photo), David Walker, and all the staff, writers, and readers through the years who helped make FIELD a vital voice in our literary community.