An Interview

Leave a comment

In which I read two poems from my chapbook “Transported” and three new pieces and talk about the process of poetry and about language.

Thanks to my friend and poetry colleague Alice Wallace, who invited me to join her in an interview with Randy Harris on the local community radio station, KTAL, where we shared our poetry and our thoughts about writing and words.


Two different poets with different styles.  Thanks to Randy and KTAL, and Cindy in the control booth, we had a great time.


Sin Fronteras Journal Closes

1 Comment

This note is especially for any Journal readers or contributors who don’t check the sin fronteras journal website.

Years ago, when I volunteered in fundraising for WHYY in Philadelphia we used the letters OoB to indicate a business which was no longer there (so don’t try to call them for a donation). Sin Fronteras Journal is now OoB, out of business.

We lost most of our volunteers over the past two years, and found no new ones who might help us transition to digital publication. We wanted to do this because hard copies are more and more expensive and frequently are not in high enough demand to pay their way. We did not succeed.

I didn’t want to make the decision by myself to shut down the magazine, which had lasted 26 years, but in the end, I am the only one here, so down it must go.

The draft of our last issue, #26, is available for viewing at http://www.sinfronterasjournal.com.

Joanne Townsend: Between Promise and Sadness

1 Comment

Those of our readers who live in Las Cruces, or who were contributors to Sin Fronteras Journal may remember Joanne Townsend, an active poet in our circle since she and her husband Dan moved down from Alaska in 2005, with several poems in the Journal.  She hoped to produce a collection of her poems in her later years, but when she died two years ago, she left a pile of poems in hard copy with no indication of a possible order.

Thanks to Joe Somoza for his ordering skills and Ellen Young and Christine Eber for following up with the details, a manuscript was created and has now been published by Cirque Press.

Sample, from “Ponder, Partake”

On the church grounds, a single white iris,
its velvet petals calling
wind from the west.
Speak, Memory  Nabokov insisted.
Crimson spilling into parched throats –
Wine.  Poetry.

Poetry was central to Joanne’s life.  Between Promise and Sadness” is available on Amazon via the Cirque Press website: From Promise to Sadness

Recommendation: Postcards from the Lilac City by Mary Ellen Talley


Every part of the country has things everyone knows if you live there, but comes as a surprise to outsiders. Like White Sands in southern New Mexico. I had been to Seattle several times but had no idea that Spokane was known as the Lilac City. If I hadn’t read Talley’s chapbook, I still wouldn’t know that. But you don’t need to know that to read this book; all is soon explained. And the poems here do many good things besides giving information.

Postcards from the Lilac City begins with stories of growing up in a certain place, Spokane, Washington, with change over time: a carousel taken down and later restored, bike riding before helmets were worn, the time when bikes are replaced by a brother’s old car.  Already there is good language and some experiment in form; in the later sections the experiments are bolder.  In the middle section, “Spokane Postcards,” a stanza of description is followed by a letter from the author to someone from back home – never mind that many of these missives have too many words to fit on a typical postcard.  The last section, “After Vietnam” does not return to a historical approach, as one might expect, but presents various moments in a variety of forms from an adult perspective.  The whole makes a satisfying read, sharing specifics of experience in poems carefully crafted.

In Honor of the Queen

1 Comment

Watching the reports of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral today, I recalled my early admiration of her, expressed in this poem from my chapbook, Transported.

Parallel Lines

Tales of moats and castles frame
my picture of a king.  The Queen
is a prim lady in a trim suit, matching hat.

Alice’s nemesis is dwarfed
by the real, living Elizabeth,
her patient smile akin to my mother’s,

her age-mate, name-sharer. A child,
I hold these two in equal honor.
My mongrel American family

choosing its tradition, links “English”
and “proper,” visits the Cotswolds,
Cambridge, and Windsor Castle,

where neither the Queen nor I can play
with the regal, cased-in-plastic doll house
made for her grandmother, Mary.

Three Short Poems Online


The RavensPerch has published three of my poems this week.  You can find the first, “Over the Dam” at https://theravensperch.com/over-the-dam-by-ellen-roberts-young/

Does anyone else remember singing as a child, “Swim, said the mama fishie, swim if you can”?  I don’t recall what brought that old song to mind, but it evolved into this little poem.

Then click on next to see my others.  Extended family will recognize the locale of “Formation.”  The poem began at the cottage I visit each year in June—not this year or last, but the year before.  Some of my poems take a long time to reach their proper form.

The third poem, “Evening” is one that began last year in a poetry webinar with Marj Hahne. “What are you feeling now?” she asked.  “What color is it?”   Beige is a color I think of as neutral, but as the poem developed it came to represent something definitely on the down side.  Perhaps one could say that “blah” became “the blahs.”

The RavensPerch is not the easiest site to browse in, at least for me, but the curious reader will find quite a variety of interesting material in the current batch.  They publish a set of works twice a month. They invite readers to leave comments.

A Late Launch

1 Comment

I am about to do my first reading for my new book which came out a year ago.

Omicron permitting, I will be the featured reader at the Sin Fronteras Open Reading at Palacio Bar in Mesilla on February 16, sharing poems from Lost in the Greenwood.  The poems describe and respond to 500-year-old tapestries and the world that created them, combined with personal reactions and reflections.  (That’s one of the unicorn tapestries from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the cover.) Gather at 7:30 p.m.  Reading begins at 8:00.  Open reading follows.

Here’s a brief sample poem from the collection:


Unlocking the past is
No simple matter when it’s wrapped
In thick carpets of color that
Combine the daily and the dreamed.
Of the joys and sorrows of the
Renaissance there is in fact
Nothing left but threads.

More about the book at http://www.ellenrobertsyoung.com

Recommendation: Danger Days by Catherine Pierce

Leave a comment

The first poems in Danger Days by Catherine Pierce (Saturnalia Press, 2020) lead one to expect that this book will be all about end times and apocalypse.  The fourth poem dispels this idea: “High Dangerous” is the name her young sons give to hydrangeas.  But there is danger there too: the bees in the flowers.

Pierce finds danger in many supposedly ordinary places.  In motherhood, for instance, in “How Becoming a Mother Is Like Space Travel.” (Both find themselves rearranged.) “Abecedarian for the Dangerous Animals” covers five kinds of animal: bees, bats, the cassowary, the golden dart frog, and humans.

She juxtaposes mundane and more serious dangers, as in the opening of:

I Spend My Days Putting Away,

the small blue car here, the skipped
heartbeat there, everything
stowed and safe.  I don’t want

anyone tripping, or slipping
into that world that isn’t this one.

One set of poems addresses the history of words, in a series she calls “From the Compendium of Romantic Words.” In each poem she explores, deconstructs and plays with a particular word.  My favorite is “delicatessen” which begins:

Noun.  Notable for a sibilant elegance heightened
by the suggestion of cured meats.  Not deli,
a vulgar nickname, a fly-den, a swing-by, but
a long sigh of syllables, a time machine.  Inside
its languid hiss: flannel suits, stenographer glamour.
When the word is uttered, a skyline materializes.

Two others in this series can be found via Pierce’s website, https://catherinepiercepoet.com/poems/ by clicking on Two Poems (Kenyon Review).  Several other poems from the book are listed there, including “High Dangerous” and the Abecedarian.  For other samples, check out “Enough” and “Tether Me.”

Pierce lifts up for examination the fragility of relationships, of the human experiment, of a world in which there is always a chance of losing one’s bearings. A world which delights, even while the speaker is frightened for it or for her own balance in it.

I would not have known of Catherine Pierce’s work if a friend hadn’t sent me this book.  It is definitely a keeper. I’ll be eager to see what she does next.

Late Bloomer

1 Comment

The cluster of yucca plants by my driveway has bloomed twice this year, each time many stems grow tall, bloom and fade and I cut them down.  Then this one stalk appeared, but something about the weather or the season prevented it from stretching above the leaves, so it bloomed surrounded by the plant’s green.

It’s a late bloomer, like me.  Most people who know me now have no idea how slow I was to learn to think for myself.  I got good grades and succeeded mostly by doing what I was told.

I began thinking of myself as a poet in my 20s, but it did not occur to me that there is a teachable craft to writing until I was able to join workshops – not classes – many years later.  (I don’t mean things like grammar, which are important to communicate; I’ve known those rules since childhood.)

Once you know the rules of a craft, it’s much more fun to learn how and when they can be broken.

It makes possible surprises like these well-shaped blooms surrounded by green.

Out in the World

1 Comment

Two of my poems have recently appeared in public.  Aji has printed “Cosmos,” a short poem about the shrinking, darkening world of a caregiver, opposite a splendid picture of dark sky: See pages 106 and 107 of their latest issue: http://www.ajimagazine.com/uploads/2/2/2/8/22289112/ajimagazinefall2021issue15-final.pdf

Spectrum has published “The Moon Demoted” in Issue 64.  The issue theme is “Perseverance.”  “The Moon Demoted” is about calendars and time. subjects I keep coming back to.  Why do we try to measure the spinning of the round earth and moon in little boxes?  Have you noticed how many wall calendars don’t even bother to put the phases of the moon into those little squares?  Spectrum is a student run print journal out of UC Santa Barbara.

Night, whether long or short
is reduced to a bar, straight
as a sidewalk . . .

I’m pleased to have my poems in the company of many other good pieces in both publications.

Older Entries