I was walking the other day, trying to clear my head, up by Greystone Park while my dog Penny, a big black lab mix of thunder, gingerly danced around a dusting of snow. I saw a flash of color in the clearing, a Fox sparrow, maybe, taking in the funny dog, an overly-contemplative man, and the November weather.
Whatever notion I once had of our poetry community being small is gone. Everything has grown expansive since we began this journal, including my heart.
We’re so grateful to Peter Mulvey for providing us with our fall migratory song. I’ve admired his music and sense of community for a long time, and it felt like he was already connected to ours in so many ways. His response when we reached out to him was so immediate and sincere it felt fated. I want to thank the Marisol Estate and Artists Rights Society for giving us permission to run a painting by Marisol. I learned she was friends with the poet Frank O’Hara and was inspired by his work. Her untitled piece accompanies Stuart Barnes’ poem “Sketching Aids.” Stu conveyed that one of the ways into the poem for him was when he thought about the French curve and how it reminded him of the human body. Marisol, too, was interested in the French curve, and, perhaps similarly, related it back to the body’s own curves and hands clasping, touching. I think it’s proved a special pairing. I want to thank, too, the National Gallery of Ireland for giving us permission to run Frans Snyders’ still life. It accompanies Matthew Carey Salyer’s poems, and the quality of the digital painting there is startling. Kathy Kremins has a dedicated poem to Jean Valentine in this issue. We were able to republish a poem by Jean last winter that her daughter, Rebecca Chace, read. Jeff Thompson did the artwork last year, and so we thought it was only fitting to have him draw Jean’s train running through Kathy’s natural world dedication. These are just a few of the connective elements within this issue.
I think it’s important to remember that there are only so many of us, at a given point, making new poems. I find it heartbreaking as a poet who isn’t writing very much right now. As an editor, though, I sing. A cross-section of poets, from all over the country and abroad, chose to send us their best unpublished work back at the beginning of August. I think it was Tom Petty who said all the songs are already written. It’s just a matter of who’s finding the radio frequency or who has their ear to the train track. And you wouldn’t believe it, but then you receive three separate poems by different poets and all mention Noah’s ark. I know, the cynic would just say they all attended the same workshop or worked the same prompt. As if magic doesn’t also arise there.
Our editorial team put notes and made selections from nearly four hundred submissions. Our design team mapped and built artwork over that time, the poets provided some brilliant audio work, and our editorial team then sequenced work from 61 poets to give you our fall issue, four months later. It nearly broke me, but it was worth it. I am grateful to the editorial and design team, as always, for their work. To Laurie Saurborn for her additional notes, and, most of all, to these poets whose work is our lifeblood.
One night you’re toiling away as poets do, and you receive a message that opens, Dorianne kindly gave me your email address…And you realize, by Dorianne, this person means Dorianne Laux, and there’s a double take when you see it’s Sharon Olds and she’s sent you a poem she’s written addressed to Emily Dickinson. Tell me you’re not dying to hear her read it now.
Welcome, on this early December morning, to the second fall issue of The Night Heron Barks.
Click here to listen to Sharon Olds read her poem, Amherst Ballad 8