Cheryl A. Rice reading at McGearys in Albany, NY

Poetry and Summer Sausage

I’m not sure if it’s a product of the Aftertimes, my many years in the poetry basin that is the Hudson Valley, or just a general feeling of being talked out, but it’s obvious I’m going thru a bit of a hiatus re: composition. Goodness knows I’ve got enough poems stowed away that have never been heard to sustain my friends and family (and dare I say, fans) for a long time to come. But generally, my output is fairly steady. Even in the past as I went thru periods similar to this, I could go back into my files and see that in fact I had been writing all along, but so naturally and subconsciously that creation was as breathing to me, and nothing notable.

I know that is not the case now. It has been several months, busy months for sure, but definitely, some time has passed since I’ve been compelled to sit down and write. I have a new chapbook all but done, but I was unhappy with how the cover was coming out. My main motivation to complete a chapbook by July was a new crafts fair in my area that I had signed on for, only to discover that it was being poorly organized and publicized little. I let the project go for the moment, but I have some new ideas for that cover, so that should come together at a more leisurely pace by the end of summer.

A search for a publisher for my newly complete collection of poems inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919 is the most calculated I’ve undertaken in my life. Of a dozen collegiate presses I’ve contacted, eight or nine have at least provided me with respectful declines. I will renew that effort soon when I’ve composed a list of more standard small presses to submit to. I have friends that run presses, small and earnest, but none are of the right-leaning for this idiosyncratic book. Maybe one doesn’t exist, and ultimately I’ll self-publish, but I still want to make a wide-ranging effort. In these days when poetry has so few homes outside of our own friends and fellow poets (and when did that become not enough?), I wanted to explore all my options.

I participate in a monthly Zoom poetry workshop, and the attendees are all friends and excellent poets. I offer my two cents, but deep dives aren’t feeling right for me lately. I would much prefer to either like or not like a poem, either be moved or stand still. I’ve been making sausage for a long time now. Maybe I just want to eat in peace for a while.

I did have the good fortune to offer a poetry workshop at my place of employment, a holistic retreat center nearby, and to my utter amazement, seven-season staff members attended. I grabbed a couple of exercises from the purple binder that contains my RANDOM WRITING workshop lessons, but otherwise, I just let this one flow from my heart. I was honest, spontaneous, attentive, flexible. Not one poem was written in the hour and a half we spent together, yet all participated, and shared their results. I honestly felt it was the best workshop I’d ever led in my life. And I had walked in with little hope of anyone attending.

To partially make up for all the ennui, here’s a recent poem that has no connection to any of this. I hope it stirs you.


The Ocean Continues

“I am surprised the ocean still continues.”  -Anne Sexton

I too am surprised.

So much of the Island remains intact,

when the Bali Hai degrades in the midst

of a parking lot full of weeds and tiny umbrellas,

when the Howard Johnson’s is out of fried clams,

Black Russians reduced to chocolate sodas,

when the Main Streets, the small seafaring villages

that thrived, faded, washed up on shore again

with organic trinkets for a new generation of weekend sailors.

There is a flavor in the air that has nothing to do with salt or fish,

inedible clams blooming between toes in the formerly Great South Bay.

It is the light, it is the lack of mountains

that slants it all just so,

despite several iterations of pavement,

prefab houses replacing post-war ticky-tacky.

Space for the wealthy, Section 8 for those who

missed the genetic boat,

whose ancestors never moved far from

the cabins in the woods, whose

Wifi reaches no further than

Montauk, not even.