The Hermit Poet

June 21, 2009

The Figure of the Father

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 11:22 am

If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that my father shows up in a number of poems and the book moves from an exploration of exile and home into something of an elegy for my father and others who have passed on.  I think the figure of the father is an important one to many of us.  Many of my favorite poems revolve around the father.  The father as foil.  As counterpart.  As template.  As warning.  As authority.  As loss.  Fathers are often fixed points, what we measure ourselves against, the poles to which we find ourselves tethered to and which we strain to break free.  Sometimes the father is an anchor.  Sometimes the father is a mirage.  A ghost.  A myth we tell ourselves.  The father is many things at once.  For me, often my father was home.

Here’s the last poem from my book, The Lost Country of Sight:

I Dream My Father on the Shore

What I am learning to give you is my death.
— Wendell Berry

Outside, beneath the light of late October’s candled sky
the weave of ash and maple burns.  We stand silent on the graveled shore.
My father lifts his father’s ashes from its urn, a strangely heavy thing ,
he seems to say, his arms swaying , then casting out into the long dark
as if to throw a line, while we wait for some sound, a wave,
whatever marks the distance between a father and a son.

And when night comes, it comes without a tread, without a word.
The stars, flickering in their endless retreat, more distant and sure
than before, do nothing while the shadows continue to fill the trees
with their cast-off clothes.  The harvest is long past, the apples
have fallen to the orchard floors.  Even my father turning to go
is almost lost to the reeds already in his path, his figure no more
than a pattern of light — a memory of a road that winds
through the darkness to our waiting ride home.

My favorite father poems include:

  • “My Father With Cigarette Twelve Years Before the Nazis Could Break His Heart” – Philip Levine
  • “His Father, Singing” – Leslie Norris
  • more to come as I think of them

What are your favorite poems about fathers?

June 1, 2009

Boxcar Poetry Review Celebrates Its 20th Issue

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 12:05 pm

It’s more than a little amazing to me that we put up the 20th issue of Boxcar Poetry Review last night.

Amazing because:

  1. Despite so many other things going on this month (semester end papers, projects, grading, meetings, moving into a new apartment, unpacking, etc), the issue actually did go up last night — and thus remained a May issue (though 3 weeks later than our usual posting time)
  2. We’ve had tremendous support from the writing community online and offline.  Wonderful submissions, some of which we were able to publish, some of which we were a little slow and missed on, and others that were great, but not a fit here.  Great people.  Engaging conversations with those we’ve been able to meet at AWP and various other readings and events.
  3. I still love this endeavor, despite being occasionally worn out from all the reading and assessing of poetry.  I believe strongly in Boxcar and in the poets and poems we’ve published.  I have the world’s best staff (and we’re adding someone new next issue too!).

Anyway, the new issue is up.  You can check it out here:

In this issue we feature:


  • “Cubilete Mountain Pilgrimage” ~ Jeffrey Alfier
  • “Living Without Water” ~ Arlene Ang
  • “Vietnamese New Year” ~ Carrie Chappell
  • “Flight Out of Guest Room” ~ Brendan Constantine
  • “Elegy for a Skinwalker” ~ Lisa Fay Coutley
  • “Little Black Holes” ~ Jenny Yang Cropp
  • “The Difference Between Oh and O” ~ Kimberly Grey
  • “The Spirit of Washington” ~ Alan King
  • “Tornado Alley” ~ Michael Meyerhofer
  • “Whispering Pines, Texas” ~ Angelo Nikolopoulos
  • “In the afterlife” ~ Jeannine M. Pitas


  • Taylor Gillis: two photos from Stems, Leaves series


  • Linda Susan Jackson’s What Yellow Sounds Like ~ Diane Schenk