Category Archives: Poetry

Review of Animals I Have Killed by Lauren K Carlson

Review of Animals I Have Killed by Lauren K Carlson

Some poets write for themselves. Others long to share their verses. I fall in the second group.

When I started writing poetry a few years ago, the poems were often responses to online challenges, so I posted them on my blog, where they would be available to the online poetry challenge community. I was thrilled when I was selected as a featured poet for NaPoWriMo, because visits to my blog spiked. It’s gratifying when people want to read what you’ve written.

Submitting single poems or groups of poems to various publications is a tedious undertaking, which I have tried on numerous occasions with no success as of yet.

I follow the contest listings in Poets and Writers magazine, and when I realized I have enough decent poems to put together a chapbook (a small collection of poems by a single poet), I began entering chapbook contests. So far I’ve lost four. Shortly after I entered the fifth, Animals I Have Killed arrived at my house. I’d forgotten that the entry fee for the Comstock Review chapbook contest included a copy of the winning book.



I read Animals I Have Killed with great interest. This is the work that beat me out, that the judges deemed better than all the rest of the entries.

Lauren K Carlson is a poet, teaching artist, and spiritual director in rural Minnesota. Nature and hunting and farm life and the sacred run through her poems. The title poem is a litany of animals that were killed on purpose, or by accident, or slaughtered for food. One line asks, “do the goats we take to the butcher count,” and the cover art is a silhouette of a goat with the cuts of meat mapped out. I was delighted to discover that one of the poems in the chapbook was her response to a prompt in The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward, which I am currently working through.

Carlson’s poems are unrhymed and utilize various forms. One is formatted unusually, and I wasn’t quite sure how to read it, due to how the lines were broken and staggered. Maybe that’s what she intended—having readers read snippets in different orders and get more than one meaning from the poem.

Two poems especially resonated with me. “The Week Before,” about a visit to a friend with terminal cancer, made me cry. And “The Lesson” is about a woman observing her son with his grandfather. They are carving together, and the lesson the grandfather teaches the little boy is internalized by the mother on a metaphysical level.

I enjoyed this chapbook. It’s a good read and I look forward to reading more of Carlson’s poetry in the future. The book also gives me hope that maybe my poems will be published one day.


Video of the Week #200: Helen Mirren Reads Tennyson


NaPoWriMo2019 #30


baby; baby sleeping


Precious baby
Little angel
No more crying
You’re fed
You’re dry
Let go
Sleep now



NaPoWriMo2019 #28




The platypus looks like a joke.
Though he’s covered with fur,
His mouth is like a duck’s bill,
And his front feet are webbed.
His tail is flat like a beaver’s.
On his back foot he has a spike
That he uses to poison his enemies.
He loves to swim.
His mama lays eggs,
And when the babies hatch,
They lap milk that leaks through her skin
And pools on her belly.



NaPoWriMo2019 #26


Venice, Rialto bridge, gondola, canal


What would it be like to travel the world
To see places I’ve only heard about
The tombs of the Pharaohs
The temples of the gods

To see the places I’ve only heard about
The canals of Venice
Lofty temples of strange gods
Windy mountaintops crowned with crosses

The canals of Venice
Sailboats on the sea of Galilee
High crosses atop mountains
Deserts shimmering with mirages

Sailboats on the sea of Galilee
Surfboards on the coast of California
Shimmering mirages in miserable deserts
Camels in the Sahara sand

Hanging ten on the coast of California
Tigers stalking the jungles of India
Camels in the sandy Sahara
What would it be like to travel the world



NaPoWriMo2019 #25


April in the Low Desert of Arizona

My favorite time of year
To walk the neighborhood
Mockingbirds tease me with their songs
Hummingbirds dashing from trumpet to trumpet
Everything in bloom
A feast for the eyes
A riot of color
Though sometimes my nose
Detects the blossoms’ subtle perfume
Before I even see them
Embryonic fruit makes my mouth water
With the promise of future sweetness
Even the wilderness is
Awash in nature’s perilous seduction
The cactus displaying its plumage
Look but don’t touch



Guest Post: How To Become A Better Poet Without Emptying Your Wallet For An MFA by Writer’s Relief


This article has been reprinted with the permission of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

There are many ways to improve your poetry skills. You could spend tens of thousands of dollars on an MFA in poetry. You could enroll in classes at your local community college. You could even take classes online. But there are also ways to become a better poet without emptying your wallet! Here’s how you can improve your poetry-writing skills without spending a fortune.

6 Totally Free Ways To Become A Better Poet

Listen to yourself. Sometimes, a poem begins with a spark of curiosity, intense feeling, or the desire to express a thought not easily captured or explained by prose. By tuning in to your own thoughts, you’ll be able to effectively capitalize on your poetic urges and instincts. Cultivating deep self-awareness is the first step to becoming a better poet.

Get a library card. Your teachers may have guided your poetry reading choices to include well-known and canonical literary figures, but you may be more intrigued and challenged by the poetry your peers are publishing. To find examples of excellent contemporary poetry, start by reading literary magazines.

Connect with other poets. Although it is entirely possible to write amazing poetry without ever speaking to another human being about the craft, you may find that your poetry improves if you reach out to others who share your passion. Join a local poetry writing group. Attend an open mic night in your area. Buy poetry books at reading events — and talk to the poets!

Volunteer at a literary journal. One of the best ways to learn what makes a good poem is to read poetry submissions that run the gamut from excellent to awful. Reach out to literary magazine editors and offer to volunteer to read submissions. Although it may be easy to distinguish between a poem that’s obviously competent and a poem that’s terrible, the line separating “good” from “bad” becomes blurrier when you reach the highest levels of talent. By volunteering, you’ll not only start to understand what distinguishes a great poem from an even better one — you’ll also cultivate a deeper sense of your own poetic preferences.

Schedule time for writing. Some people believe that the art of writing is essentially autodidactic — that the core work of learning to write happens when a writer is alone. Writers can be guided by good teachers toward a deeper understanding of their own talents and preferences, but it is the writer’s job to forge his or her own unique way. Every time you sit down to write, you are both teacher and student. Although you may not be able to fork out thousands of dollars for a poetry MFA, your dedication of time, focus, and energy can still improve your poetry.

Submit poetry for publication to reputable literary magazines. Don’t let a fear of believing that your poetry is “not good enough” hold you back from making submissions. By submitting your poetry to literary journal editors, you can test the waters to discover how your writing will be received. Initially, you may get a lot of rejections. But if you know how to interpret your rejection letters, even a nice “no thank-you” can be incredibly instructive. You might also get some personal feedback to help you hone your skills.

One Final Warning For Poets Who Want To Improve Their Craft

Unfortunately, there are many people out there who will take advantage of a poet’s natural enthusiasm. Poetry author mills, “fake” poetry contests, and even some poetry writing conferences often look like excellent opportunities on paper — but they’re actually profit-generating machines that don’t carry much weight in professional publishing circles. While some legitimate literary journals must now charge minimal admin fees in order to stay afloat, always do your research before you write that check.