Category Archives: Poetry

Creative Juice #301

Creative Juice #301

Neat things to see this weekend! Happy Fourth, everyone!

Review of When the Light of the World was Subdued, our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, edited by Joy Harjo


Joy Harjo is the current Poet Laureate of the United States. She started this project before she took on the office. (She has since edited a second such anthology.) She was ably assisted by associate editors, contributing editors, and regional advisors. It is a huge undertaking, gathering together the work of 161 poets, representing 100 indigenous nations (out of 573 federally recognized tribal nations), containing more than more than 240 poems. But there is so much more—commentary about native culture and history; bios of the individual poets. It took me a long time (eight months) to read the 425 pages, and I fully intend to reread it several more times.

The book is full of pain, but also tradition, spirituality, beauty, wonder, diversity, respect for nature, and even some humor. I learned a lot. The book deserves pondering. North American indigenous peoples have a long literary history. “The earliest recorded written by a Native person was composed as an elegy by ‘Eleazar,’ a senior at Harvard College in 1678,” but there was a rich oral tradition before then.

I didn’t obtain permissions to reprint any of these poems, but I have located online some of the ones that moved me. I include these links and videos below so you can determine if you might want to read this book yourself.

Jim Northrup, “Shrinking Away”:

M. Scott Momady, “The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee

Layli Long Soldier, “38

Tanaya Winder, “The Milky Way Escapes My Mouth

Dian Million, “The Housing Poem

Joe Balaz, “Charlene

Sherman Alexie, “The Summer of Black Widows

Anita Endrezze, “The Wall

Gladys Cardiff, “To Frighten a Storm

Imaikalani Kalahele, “Make Rope

Nora Marks Dauenhauer, “How to Make Good Baked Salmon from the River,” introduced and read by Joy Harjo:

This book is an excellent resource for white people like me who want to explore the culture and history of the First Nations.

Creative Juice #298

Creative Juice #298

Lots of good stuff here.

NaPoWriMo Day 30


Today’s prompt is to write a cento. This is a poem that is made up of lines taken from other poems.

Entertaining Angels Unawares

The sky wasn’t black or blue but the green of a dying night.
Faded mattresses sagged against a chain-link fence, fading more in the moonlight
and I find you falling for that feeling, see you staring, staring,
your heart so tired of beating.
It has been said that scorpions dance where language falters and gives way.
At the hospital they’re calling your name.
I tried to follow in your footsteps, but they turned to water;
the river seeped in over your boots.
Forsake my thumb for the sheen of unshod hooves.

Every ball drops like an anvil heavy,
to tenderly touch the heavy skull, furred and rough.
We’re disguised as orthodontists having a convention,
putting on aprons and paper hats.

What every smart child knows:
Change is a thing one sleeps through.
O, how we entertain the angels.

by ARHuelsenbeck

I gathered random lines from poems in American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time edited by Tracy K. Smith. Then I shuffled them around until they almost told a story. I confess I tweaked some of the lines to make the poem more cohesive.

Here are the lines in their original form, with credit to the original poets and their poems:

The sky wasn’t black or blue but the green of a dying night.
	(Natalie Diaz, “My Brother at 3 AM”)
Faded mattresses sag against a chain-link fence.
	(Cathy Park Hong, “Who’s Who”)
Fading and find you falling for that feeling, you staring farther
	(Dara Wier, “Scorch Marks”)
The heart is so tired of beating
	(Ada Limón, “Downhearted”)

It has been said that scorpions dance where language falters and gives way.
	(Charles Wright, “Charlottesville Nocturne”)
At the hospital they’re calling your name
	(Erika L. Sánchez, “The Poet at Fifteen”)
I tried to follow in your footsteps, but they turned to water
	(John Yau, “Music from Childhood”)
the river seeped in over your boots
	(Natasha Tretheway, “Elegy”)
forsake my thumb for the sheen of unshod hooves.
	(Ross Gay, “becoming a horse”)

Every ball drops like an anvil, heavy
	(Donika Kelly, “Fourth Grade Autobiography”)
to tenderly touch the heavy skull furred and rough
	(Steve Scafidi, “For the Last American Buffalo”)
disguised as orthodontists having a convention
	(Dean Young, “Romanticism 101”)
putting the aprons back on, the paper hats,
	(Matthew Dickman, “Minimum Wage”)

What every smart child knows—
	(Yona Harvey, “Hurricane”)
Change is a thing one sleeps through
	(Christian Wiman, “The Diagnosis”)

O, how we entertain the angels
	(Nicole Sealey, “Object Permanence”)

I had every intention of participating in NaPoWriMo all month long, but I forgot until April 10, when I happened to see a NaPoWriMo post on a blog I follow. So instead of writing 30 poems in 30 days, I only wrote 13. (Yes, I skipped a few days when I was worn to a frazzle or had absolutely no inspiration.) I console myself with the thought that I wrote more poems in April than I did in the first three months of 2022.

Congratulations to all you poets who participated in the challenge! Let’s all keep up the good work.

NaPoWriMo Day 29


Today’s prompt is to write a poem in which you muse on the gifts you received at birth, as well as a “curse” you’ve lived with.


I was blessed with dark, dark eyes
and shining hair
and long, thick lashes 
and rosebud lips

a princess
with a sippy cup stating my rank
my palace a modest cider block home

I had the run of the neighborhood
planning parades whenever I wanted one
charging the neighbors a penny apiece to watch me walk by

it was an idyllic childhood
except for one thing:
it was my great misfortune
to be born into the Rannertshauser family
what a curse to have to pronounce my name over and over on the first day of school without any hope of teachers or classmates remembering how to say it
what a curse to have to spell it over and over again r-a-n-n-e-r-t-s-h-a-u-s-e-r until a prince with a shorter surname rescued me

by ARHuelsenbeck

NaPoWriMo Day 28


Today’s prompt is to write a concrete poem.

Everything’s Better Under a Tree

leafy arms raised to the sky
waving in the wind like fans at a sporting event
providing shade, cleaning the air, anchoring the landscaping
sheltering birds and squirrels and insects
sometimes flowering, possibly offering fruit or nuts
perhaps even entertaining the children with climbable limbs
or maybe a rope swing or even a treehouse:
prime real estate for the younger set, only occasionally visited 
by the elders who would rather 
sit below in lawn chairs or a hammock, preferably 
with a glass of iced tea or beer or maybe a cigarette
everything’s better under a tree
a gift created
by nature
that we
can use
to good
and indifference

by ARHuelsenbeck

NaPoWriMo Day 27


Today’s prompt is to write a duplex.

Holding hands in the coffee shop
Photo by Brodie Vissers via StockSnap
Holding Hands in Starbucks

my mother doesn’t approve of public displays of affection
we each have one hand free to hold our lattes

holding my latte in my free hand
i take a sip, letting my eyes communicate the longing in my heart

his eyes reveal his opposition to my proposal
he is uneager to curtail his freedom

while i eagerly offer to trade my autonomy
for the new role I desire

the new role has benefits for both of us
our love will expand to encompass it

his love expands to grant my wish of maternity
my tears of joy express my gratitude

he accurately reads my tears and squeezes my hand
my mother doesn’t approve of public displays of affection

by ARHuelsenbeck

NaPoWriMo Day 26


Today’s prompt is to write an epic simile.

The Kiss

it flowed like a river
increasing in intensity
making my heart lurch
like a raft in the midst of rapids
momentarily suspended
only to descend to the depths
and finally to ebb
into gentle buoyancy

like a magnet
his lips drew me in
and I could not escape
his powerful attraction
pulling me away
from every distraction
centering my attention
like a telescope

time elapsed so leisurely
like the passage of a shadow
across a sundial face
yet it felt like no time at all
and ended too soon
what I’d waited for all my life
over in an instant

oh, may we repeat it
every day
every hour
every minute
like a healing habit
a holy blessing

by ARHuelsenbeck

NaPoWriMo Day 25


Today’s prompt is to write a poem that recounts a dream or vision, and in which a woman appears who represents or reflects the area in which you live.

Daemon of the Desert

I disobeyed the first rule of hiking in the desert 
which is turn back when your water is half gone
I hadn’t yet found the petroglyphs I wanted to photograph
and so I continued until my bottles were dry
thinking I still had one more in my backpack

I was wrong

I headed back toward the trailhead
but it was warmer now
no other hikers on the trail
no shade at high noon
my tongue dry
my lips cracked and sore
my arms red with sunburn

I sit on the ground too tired to take another step
and then I can’t remember—which way is out

and then I see her shimmering in the sunlight
dressed in white voile that flutters in the scalding breeze
an aura radiates from her
maybe she knows the way out
maybe she has water

I try to stand, but I can’t
I try to call to her, but no sound escapes my lips
and so I crawl
the rocks cut my hands and knees
she’s so far away
I try but I can’t reach her
and then 


I wake as she presses a prickly stem against my lips
a jelly-like substance squirts into my mouth
it tastes bitter but soothes my parched tongue
she breaks the stem and squirts again and again
until I can finally whisper thank you

she rubs the gel onto my face
and my skin feels cool
then she helps me to my feet

we’re standing on a hill
she points and I can see my car
not so far away
joy fills my heart
I turn back toward her—

but I am 



NaPoWriMo Day 24


Today’s prompt is to write a poem in which you describe something with a hard-boiled simile.

Poky Pest

I must be tasty
judging by the mosquito 
penetrating my arm
like a jackhammer

leaving me itchy
as a flea-infested mongrel

buzzing past my ear
whining like 
a World War I biplane

I want to smash you to oblivion
like a wrestler in stretchy pants
piledriving an opponent

you’re fragile as gossamer
yet you purvey misery
like a miser