Poet of the Day – Gail Tyson

National Poetry Month April 1, 2020

Gail Tyson

 Darning the Wounded Tongue
 
Half-dog, half-camel, with bottomless eyes,
the creature kneels beside me like a sphinx.
Erect, tall in a Queen Anne chair, I gaze
ahead. Neither of us makes a sound.
 
The creature kneels beside me in a pale room,
silvery light casting peace around us.
Neither of us makes a sound. She opens
her mouth, revealing one wound on her tongue.
 
The light casts peace as evenly as stitches
lined up on a needle, its long arc
revealing a deep wound on her tongue; it
isn’t bleeding. I pick up fine white yarn
 
and needle—a long arc hovering, silent,
above the deep, oval wound, which is not
bleeding but yearning for the fine white yarn.
Slowly I begin to sew it up.
 
The oval hole, deep as the brown eyes trained
on me, accepts my stitches, unflinching.
Sewing up the gaping wound, I’m relieved
these sutures do not hurt. As I sew and
 
sew without flinching, without ceasing
the ancient rhythm seems to heal me, too.
Thankful that these sutures do not hurt,
I sense an old truth rising from our bond
 
just before waking, as if the creature
testifies: The world can be mended.
 
This poem was published by Able Muse in Winter 2014.

1. What inspired you to write this poem?

A dream. And when I shared it with my dream group, one of the members said it made her feel as if the world can be mended, which felt healing.

2.     What do you like about this poem?

The way it plays a bit with the form, and the music.

3.     What would you change about this poem?

Nothing.

4.     Where, when, and how often do you write?

I write poems in longhand before moving to my desktop or laptop. Until my husband got ill and died last March, I used to write 3-5 hours every day. I am trying to get back to that.

5.     What poetry books are you reading right now?

Eaven Boland: A Woman Without a Country; Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch: Not in These Shoes; Ron Rash: Raising the Dead

This poem was published by Able Muse in Winter 2014.

  1. What inspired you to write this poem?

A dream. And when I shared it with my dream group, one of the members said it made her feel as if the world can be mended, which felt healing.

2.     What do you like about this poem?

The way it plays a bit with the form, and the music.

3.     What would you change about this poem?

Nothing.

4.     Where, when, and how often do you write?

I write poems in longhand before moving to my desktop or laptop. Until my husband got ill and died last March, I used to write 3-5 hours every day. I am trying to get back to that.

5.     What poetry books are you reading right now?

Eaven Boland: A Woman Without a Country; Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch: Not in These Shoes; Ron Rash: Raising the Dead

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It’s Our Fifth Anniversary and We Have News

We have plenty of news to share with you today: the Gyroscope Review fifth anniversary, a stellar spring issue, and a change to our masthead.

Gyroscope Review Celebrates Five Years of Publication

The spring 2020 of Gyroscope Review marks five years of publishing this journal, collaborating to bring you voices from far and wide, and refining how Gyroscope Review presents itself to the world. We are so proud of how things have turned out. And we are not just proud of the journal itself, but of the community we’ve fostered among poets and readers. You’ll see examples of that for National Poetry Month right here beginning tomorrow.

Our Spring 2020 Issue

Our spring issue is gorgeous. Poets sent us so much thoughtful work that tapped not only into the essence of spring, but also renewal and concern for the world. It’s a little eerie to realize these poems were written pre-pandemic but are still just what we need.

Here’s a look at the cover:

Gyroscope Review fifth anniversary

Celebrate the Gyroscope Review fifth anniversary with your own copy! We have a print version available HERE.

We have a Kindle version available HERE.

Both print and Kindle versions are also available by searching for Gyroscope Review on the Amazon sites in the UK, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere.

As always, our PDF version is available HERE.

Editor Kathleen Cassen Mickelson is Leaving

Now, about our masthead. This is Kathleen writing this post, so I’ll shift into a different voice here. As co-founder of this journal, I’ve had a great time working with Constance Brewer to create a place for so many poets’ voices. After five years, it’s time for me to rotate off of the masthead as an active editor. Constance is staying put as the main editor of Gyroscope Review. Over the past several months, we’ve been lucky to add Elya Braden and Hanna Pachman as assistant editors who will move forward with Constance in continuing to bring you fine contemporary poetry.

As for me, I’m going to concentrate on my own work in creative nonfiction and poetry, a collaborative project or two, and my own site, One Minnesota Writer. I’d love to do some guest posts here in the future if it’s okay with everyone else. In the meantime, please come visit me at One Minnesota Writer, especially if you have publication news of your own to share. I have a feature there called New Book News that I’ve just started up to share information about new books and chapbooks, and to offer another bit of community for writers and readers.

Thank you, everyone, for being part of the Gyroscope Review community, for reading and sending us work. Thank you for making these past five years an amazing experience. Here’s to you.

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A Poet, a Notebook, and a Pencil Walk into a Bar…

Picture of head sculpture

It’s closing in on that time again. National Poetry Month. Are you prepared? Lots of folks use the month to generate new work, doing the Poem A Day thing. There are prompts galore out there for those who want to give writing a poem every day a try. Sometimes you need a little bit more than a one-word or one-sentence prompt. And sometimes one word is all it takes.

Other ways to get you into the Poetry mindset. 

Read. Read poets you know and love, read poets you don’t know anything about but saw a recommendation for. Read poets on Instagram and poets who self-publish. For a change of pace, read biographies of poets. There’s some fascinating material on them that might serve as inspiration. Read translations and poetry from other countries. There’s a great big world out there of creative inspiration different than you’re used to. 

Research. Flip through the dictionary or thesaurus (online is great) and jot down words that you love, synonyms, words that have a great mouthfeel. Note the definitions. Read up on colors— there are more words for brown than I thought possible. Scope out a birdwatching book. All kinds of fun terminology in there, and descriptions. Everywhere you look there’s words and phrases to write down so that you can use or warp them later on. Jar your brain out of complacency. 

Absorb. Look at art and think of how to describe the feeling. Listen to different music. Watch a movie you love with the sound off, and figure out how to capture the feel of the scene. Commune with nature. study everyday objects. 

As always, carry a notebook and writing implement of your choice with you. Be aware, and you’ll have plenty of fodder to make it through April. 

How Other Folks Do It

Here are some Gyroscope Review Editor inspirations—

Constance Brewer: For some poetic inspiration I like Rainer Maria Rilke, Seamus Heaney, Maya Angelou, Rumi, Shakespeare, and reading lots and lots of poetry journals of all types. And don’t forget YouTube. Hearing poets read is awesome. 

For bios: 

  • Anna of All the Russias: The Life of Anna Akhmatova, by Elaine Feinstein
  • I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg, by Bill Morgan
  • My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson, by Alfred Habegger
  • Neruda: The Poet’s Calling by Mark Eisner
  • Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
  • Lives of the Poets by Michael Schmidt

For other inspiration: Outside, in nature, including nights staring up at the stars. 

Kathleen Cassen Mickelson: For poetic inspiration, I love flipping through anthologies so I can meander among a whole bunch of poets at once. One of my favorites is The New American Poetry 1945-1960 edited by Donald Allen. In there, I can find many old favorites – poems by Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, and many others. I never get tired of Mary Oliver. Or Naomi Shihab Nye. I subscribe to email lists from Ted Kooser, Poem-a-Day, Rattle, and others that highlight a different poet each day. I occasionally go to readings; a while back, I was lucky enough to meet Richard Blanco at one and he was so gracious. I love bios about reporters rather than poets, which is a little different than my colleagues; particularly war reporters.  And there are sources for the always-important wordless inspiration outside in nature. I love to hike and listen to birds, water, wind, and whatever else is moving. Finally, on days when nothing else will do, I grab my camera and find a different way to focus.

Elya Braden: For poetic inspiration, I subscribe to email lists to receive daily poems from Rattle, Poetry Daily, Poetry Foundation, Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keller (full of fun facts of the day!), and Poem-a-Day from Poets.org. I’ll often look up individual poets whose work ignites something in me and order their latest book for a deeper dive. I’ll spend a week or two reading and re-reading one poet’s work, deconstructing the ingredients of their “secret sauce,” and practicing those elements in my own words.

I always carry a small notepad with me to jot down ideas, which often come when I’m at poetry readings. Recently, I’ve been fortunate to see/hear Natalie Diaz and Naomi Shihab Nye at The Broad Museum in LA (poetry + art = a home run!), and Ellen Bass, Marie Howe and Jane Hirshfield in Berkeley (what a trifecta!).

I’m also inspired by being in nature – hiking or walking at the beach (outside I take iPhone photos and dictate notes). I’m very visual, so I’m inspired by artwork and photography and love trolling museums for poem ideas. In writing workshops, I’ve used art and/or photo calendars as prompts. National Geographic magazines are also brimming with intriguing and inspiring photos.

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Sink the Shot and Save the Poem

Basketball hitting rim

Let’s talk about ending poems.

Reading through slush I’m always looking for a kick-ass ending to a poem. It’s like watching a close basketball game. Last quarter, 2 seconds on the clock, poet racing down the page. Here’s the throw at the buzzer and Ohh…..it bounces off the rim. 

I hate that. 

I want the poet to succeed, make me slump back in my seat, stunned with awe and envy. Rock my world. That is why I read poetry, to savor what a deft turn of phrase does to my head. Too often a poem just sort of sputters and reclines on the floor, panting with effort. It tried its best. 

As writers, we need to pat those endings on the head and boot them out the door. Is a flabby ending what you really intended? Ask yourself, what image do you want to leave the reader with? What was the goal when you started the poem? 

The inspiration came from somewhere. It’s hard, but try to recapture that feeling. What sent sparks from your brain to your fingers? That’s where more often than not the disconnect happens. Fingers like to caress and rework, shape a poem like clay until it collapses under the weight of expectations. Override the impulse. I tend to overthink and all of a sudden I’m editing hard and strangling the life from the poem. I bet that happens to a lot of poets. Write and walk away. Ignore the screaming child on the page until YOU are ready to edit. Like every writing book says, put it away for a while. It grows without you or shrivels and dies. You’ll know which way it went when you take it back out of the drawer. 

Editing is a time to dig deep and confront yourself. Maybe the poem ends too abruptly and the perfect ending is dangling just another stanza or two down the road. Maybe the poet got caught up in the story and didn’t realize the perfect ending happened much earlier in the poem and now it’s lost on the road not taken. 

Leave the reader thinking and wanting more. Be that stock movie image, someone walking away from an explosion with nary a look back. You can do it. Dig deep and sink that shot at the buzzer. I can’t wait to read it.

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