Introduction by Sherry Chandler


Or in the immortal words of Cousin Minnie Pearl — How DEE, I’m just so proud to be here.

Mary Alexandra Agner invited me to add my voice to the harmonies here, a timely invitation for me, serendipitous even, though I use that word with caution.

I wrote a blog for several years but one day I discovered I couldn’t do it any more. I think they call that burn out. Lately, however, I’ve felt an awakening of the urge to blog, accompanied by a reluctance to take on so intense a task.

So when Mary’s invitation showed up in my inbox, I accepted joyfully. It seems as just right as Baby Bear’s chair. I like what I read here and hope I can contribute something worthwhile.

Is this a preamble or just an amble? I really don’t like introducing myself. My life story is available at To give you a notion who I am, I’ll give you a poem from my book Weaving a New Eden. The poem culminates a geneology in poems following mothers instead of fathers.

Sherry Florence Chandler
(daughter of all of these)

So I am arrived here, not in the plumb-bob
Heritage of my father’s line, my father called
Eagle-eye because he could raise a barn foursquare.
Rather I am come in zigs and zags, a looping
Ragged line of mothers and grandmothers, nested
Yarn, a thread spun, woven, hooked into coverings.

Fancy finds these women plain, and poor, working
Land farmed out since the first generation plowed
On clear-cut hills. Time’s mainstream washed past like
Rivers and creeks that took their topsoil, left only
Eden Shale, academic term for sticky yellow clay.
Nurture in such an Eden was a fulfillment of God’s
Curse, toil and pain, and yet, from this unwelcoming
Earth they brought forth lilacs and tender lettuces.

Cuttings and seed, handed on, handed down,
Homespun petticoats, spinning wheel on the hearth,
A loom in the barn, then feed-sack frocks, the reciprocating
Needle of the Sears and Roebuck Singer in the corner.
Daughter of all these, I would sing for these women
Like Virgil – strong arms and the woman
Except, of course, that that is not their style.
Rather I’ll call you a dance to the figure of the Black-Eyed Girl.

introducing Dawn McDuffie: “Where do you find these ideas?”

Dawn McDuffie is a wonderful woman whom I’ve had the good fortune to know since the mid-1990s; we met at a YMCA Writer’s Voice workshop in Detroit. For the past twenty years (!) or so, we’ve corresponded about applications, books, church life, dolls, eats, and a good many things beyond. This is her first post for Vary the Line; please check back each month for more insights from Dawn (and the rest of us).

Where do you find these ideas?

I spent an hour or so this afternoon watching a pair of monarch butterflies flit from yard to yard. The four households own tiny city lots, but the homeowners have stuffed them with flowers and tasty milkweed. It seems unfair that the grace of butterflies, the changing of colors as one perennial blooms and another dies back — that all these riches didn’t inspire a new poem, although I did write a haibun last year during a terrible drought. In the same way, the current political state has sparked a sense of dread, but has not given me any poems. I’m grateful that somewhere between pure beauty and total distress I find possibilities lining up, waiting to be written. Here’s the haibun from last summer’s heat wave:

Detroit, summer 2016

7:00 A.M. and it’s 80° in our back yard, a small space surrounded by a high fence, and most years, the green of shade and sun, regular rain. Tangerine day lilies, pink lilies, coral bells with their sparkle wands tolerate the dry part of summer, but none of our plants can stay healthy with no rain at all. Summer thunder storms have passed us by. I go to bed with a glass of water on the night stand, just in case I’m too thirsty to sleep. In the morning I pour what I didn’t finish into a black plastic watering can. Seedlings, I’m sharing my drink with you.

Thirsty hummingbirds,
I have watered the bee balm,
cool gifts quickly gone.

Robin Morgan’s “Monster”

I have been struggling to find all of Robin Morgan’s poem “Monster” since I read an excerpt of it on Feminist SF – The Blog.

It’s an angry poem and I adore it. I would love to quote you the entirety of the piece, all 6 pages of its glory, but I would also like to respect Morgan‘s creative ownership of the piece.

I admire its bravery, I admire the descent to violence but not the submission to violence. I need it because it reminds me that there are ways of writing that align with my ways of being and that most of the written word and the spoken word are not written and spoken in those ways. It reminds me that there is nothing wrong or despicable about who I am.

Here is an excerpt:

And you, men. Lovers, brothers, fathers, sons.
I have loved you and love you still, if for no other reason
than that you came wailing from the monster
while the monster hunched in pain to give you the power
to break her spell.
Well, we must break it ourselves, at last.
And I will speak less and less and less to you
and more and more in crazy gibberish you cannot understand:
witches’ incantations, poetry, old women’s mutterings,
schizophrenic code, accents, keening, firebombs,
poison, knives, bullets, and whatever else will invent
this freedom.

This is adult, end-of-the-day Poetry Friday.

Introduction – Mary Alexandra Agner

I’m overdue on my fortnightly post. I’m recovering from another bout with my parents telling me my poems don’t make sense to them. I’m learning how to deal with the fact that I keep quitting.

My worries are subjective. They eat into the facts as though they were chocolate chips cookies, Friday afternoon, latch-key kid home and warm. Between the holes: I poet, I dance, I cajole prose from busy and reluctant scientists and engineers for money. (I tend to iambs, once I’ve started.)

I’m here to find out why I love so little poetry. I couldn’t live without writing it but lack appreciation for others’ work.

I recommend most of Nancy Willard‘s work, and Emily Dickinson’s, and Constance Merritt‘s, and Elizabeth Hadaway‘s.

I leave you with lines by Abbie Huston Evans:

—Here, take them, Emily, they hurt

In telling; can you bear

To hear of elderberries, skirt

The coasts of sun and air?

Know all that hurt you once hurts still.

Need any tell you how

Night brings the moon, dawn finds the hill?

Want you such hurting now?

Introduction – Brianna Brash-Nyberg

Hi there, everyone.  How many make up the “everyone” who read poetry blogs, anyway?  We should start a betting pool, making guesses on what our readership will be.

I’m Brianna, and you can find me elsewhere at my weblog, Jouissance, and my business site, Borealis Creative.  I write poems, plus a healthy dose of fiction (I’m working on my first novel–who isn’t?) and creative non-fiction.  I’ve also been making websites for fifteen years, almost since the Internet was born.  These days, I make websites for writers and other creative people.  I’m also the director of Booming Ground, UBC Creative Writing’s non-credit online writing studio.

In August of this year I finished my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.  For my thesis, I wrote a book-length manuscript of poetry called Botany.  I’ll be starting the process of sending it out to publishers later this month.  I write a lot about plants, birds, mindfulness/wise mind, weather, the city, and other West Coast-y and nature-y things.  My poems have popped up here and there in Canadian literary journals, including The Malahat Review and Room.  I’ve taught writing to high school students and single moms, and I hope to continue to teach throughout my life.

I was at a party with a bunch of other poets last week, and we made each other name five favourite poets on the spot, without thinking.  I chose Anne Carson, Louise Gluck, Roo Borson, e. e. cummings, and Eric Miller.  If I had room for a couple of extras, I’d’ve thrown in Homer and Sappho–for my undergrad degree I did a minor in Greek and Roman Studies.  I still remember a few words of ancient Greek.

I’ve been “friends in the computer” with Mary for quite a few years now.  I don’t even remember how I found her journal.  Regardless, I’m thrilled to be a part of this wonderful collective and I’m very much looking forward to thinking about and with poetry in the company of these other three talented women and those of you who pause here for a while, read along, and hopefully join in the conversation through the comments.  There’s plenty of talk on the Internet these days about elections and economics and war and global warming and on and on.  I’m glad we’re making some space to talk about poetry, too.

In real life, I live in a cozy apartment near the beach with my husband of almost 6 years, Mike Borkent, who’s working on his MA in English Lit at UBC (focusing on cognitive poetics and the concrete poetry of bpNichol), and my fat and handsome old cat, the Gak, who’s working on convincing me to feed him, pet him, and/or let him outside.  It rains a lot in my city, but it doesn’t get too cold, so it all more or less evens out.

In my spare (ha!) time, I like to cook and experiment with raw food, make things with beads, travel, hike, camp, swim, do church-y things (I’m a progressive Christian, and generally hang out in the Anglican church), do yoga (it’s a requirement for citizenship in my neighborhood of Vancouver) and sleep.  I’m not so good with memorizing poems, but the one that’s always lurking at the back of my mouth is Ezra Pound’s “In A Station of the Metro”:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Introducing Jeannine Hall Gailey

Hey everyone! My name’s Jeannine Hall Gailey, and I’m excited to be a part of this blog project. I’ve just moved from Seattle to San Deigo and started teaching a poetry seminar at National University. My first book, Becoming the Villainess, was published by Steel Toe Books in 2006. Poems from the book were featured on NPR’s the Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, Verse Daily, and in 2007’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.  I’m working on two new books, one on fairy tale characters trapped in sleep, towers, and coffins and another on Japanese pop culture and folk tales. I volunteer at Crab Creek Review as a consulting editor and write poetry book reviews and essays on a regular basis. My blog is listed in the links, if you want to keep up with my goings-on, readings, etc, and you can learn more about me at Hey, this post is peppered with links!
I think it’s really important for people to have fun with poetry. To paraphrase an old evangelical saying, it’s a sin to bore people with poetry. So, to that end, I write a lot about popular culture – the culture that binds me and my x-er generation together! Let’s see, what else…I have a very supportive, poetry-loving engineer husband and two less supportive cats, do a little journalism on the side, and spent ten years as a web and technical writing manager before I became “serious” about poetry. I’m looking forward to doing more with this blog collective!

Introduction – Joanne Merriam

I’m Joanne Merriam. I’m 35, female, agnostic, an immigrant, a Red Tory, a proud Maritimer, a liberal feminist and a running dog capitalist. I write poetry and science fiction. I have a nuanced position on the Oxford comma. I’m a temp; right now I’m doing lease and title work for an oil and gas lease acquisition company. I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia, but I’m living temporarily in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (former home of the world’s largest red cedar bucket) and officially reside in Concord, New Hampshire, where I’m returning in three months. My poetry collection The Glaze from Breaking (Stride) was released in the UK in January 2005 but is now out of print. My poems have appeared in more than two dozen periodicals and a handful of anthologies.

Hi. Hello!

“I think you think I don’t know who you are,”
she says at the window, “but I know what I know.”
– “The Puzzle House” by William Baer

Just as an aside, the Ampersand Project (and the online journal) that Peg mentions don’t exist anymore (the server they were on, and my laptop, had contemporaneous hissyfits, and rather than a painful reconstruction I just took them down), which means that a sustainable living learning center in New Mexico could take over the name (without, I’m sure, ever having heard of our use of it).

Introduction – Peg Duthie

Howdy! I’m Peg. I also answer to Mechaieh, Pixel, Pixie, Ribbons, Marriott, “no sister of his” (*waves to any Sherlockians reading*), and a number of other monikers. My last name is pronounced “DUH-thee.”

I became acquainted with Mary and Joanne via their online journals around — oh, golly, at least five or more years ago? I started reading Mary’s journal back when it was called “Prosody and Perl” — I think I happened upon it via some sort of update-your-journal-daily-in-December challenge that another web-friend was participating in, and I remember going “Ooh! Someone else wrestling with every damned cadence and breath…” (Witnessing people care about getting the details right is one of life’s bonniest pleasures, as far as I’m concerned. Mind, it’s a fine line between devotion to craft vs. driving everyone else batshit with one’s overthinking (never mind perfection vs. paralysis), but that’s a topic for some other post some other week.) Joanne – I think there was a link to her journal from Jessie’s that I happened upon; Joanne was running a monthly collaborative project called “Ampersand” at the time, and I ended up writing poems on DNA and posts about Fra Giovanni thanks to her prompts.

There’s a meditation lurking somewhere behind those details about the joys of online friendships and creative pingpong, but that too is a post for some other time. I may also indulge in rambletations on holiday poems, “The Hound of Heaven,” Jill Essbaum’s tattoos, and other mayhem. Work and bronchitis are currently cramping both my style and schedule, though, so for now what you’ll get are quick recs and a bit of shameless self-promotion.

First, the recs:

(1) I’m the kind of perfectionist dork who often feels compelled to look up a source even for a silly fly-by comment, so I Googled Blake’s “Little lamb who made thee” earlier this morning. To my delight, one of the links that showed up was this tribute to Tygger. I haven’t paged through the entire comment-thread, but “tightwhitepants” offered a vignette that ended with this gloriousness: “For the next half an hour, the friends sat and argued about whether Eeyore’s name was iambic, trochaic, or even spondaic, until it was time for tea and everybody went home.”

(2) I’m enjoying Samuel Wharton’s poems at No Tell Motel this week. They’ve got a spooky-creepy-playful vibe that’s connecting with me. The last stanza of “Humiliation Pictures” is so good I wish I’d written it.

Shameless self-promotion:
(1) Version 3.0 of Things Japanese in Tennessee went live yesterday. This is the latest incarnation of a course I’ve helped produce for the Japan-America Society of Tennessee over the past couple of years, and it now includes a section on poetry. (This is a beta release — the official premiere will be next month in Raleigh.) I think it’s a nice bit of fun (it’s intended for ages ten and up, with features such a selection of kigo (seasonal words used in haiku) read aloud in Japanese), so I encourage you to go see (and hear) for yourself.

(2) I found out this morning that my poem “Playing Duets With Heisenberg’s Ghost” has been selected as a “Judge’s Pick” in this year’s Science Fiction Poetry Association contest, which means it’ll appear in the winners’ chapbook later this year. I confess I’d been feeling more down than usual lately over some recent rejections, so aside from the never-ever-will-get-tired-of-it thrill of someone else liking my work, it’s a welcome shot in the arm. I also probably owe Heisenberg’s ghost some sort of libation, since this is now the second poem about him I’ve managed to sell. 🙂