The Poet’s Craft Blog

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Across the Atlantic by Annie HInkle

Annie Hinkle of Pleasant Ridge is a poet, memoirist, essayist and teacher whose poetry chapbook, Composition Studies came out last year. She offers this timely and timeless poem about immigration.

Across the Atlantic

— 1945 —
my mother
sailed to become an American woman
to wear white gloves and pearls,
to shop, work, and marry
in a city
on a river
promised to look like the Rhine,
a dream,
which never did
I could tell
from the look in her eyes
she gave
to the photos
she kept of people
boarding the boat,
suspended on paper
in her dresser drawer.

Despite this,
despite no mother to accompany her
and the eventual burn of my birth,
she gave me everything
she could

theatre, dance,
books, art,
ice skating in parks,
my piano,

and everything she couldn’t

time in the kitchen.

Only dark mornings,
her head in her hands,
over a cold bowl,
while staring
into silence,
her sustenance.

I stock my own kitchen
with everything we did not have

nesting bowls,
measuring cups
and spoons,
peelers and graters,
ricers and sifters,
bread pans,
muffin tins,
fine china,
the seder plate,

This Thanksgiving,
everyone can come,
my own children and theirs
returning to the table
I always set for them.
The cranberries
are in the oven
sugared under the foil.
Soon, they will reach
a red jewel stage,
and I will lift the silver,
add the brandy
to create the sudden popping
and waft of sweet
my head over the pan,
tart fruit
thick and dizzying

a faint train
across a continent.

Annie Hinkle

Published in Blue Lyra Review

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Broken by Richard Hague

Are you looking for a poem for “Poem in Your Pocket Day”? Here is a fine one by poet and teacher Richard Hague of Madisonville. Dick Hague shines bright among Cincinnati’s many poetry treasures. I have lost track of the number of his books of poetry and prose, but we are in double digits. This poem, a sort of blessing for dark times, is from his newest Beasts, River, Drunk Men, Garden, Burst, & Light: Sequences and Long Poems (Dos Madres Press, 2016) He is also the editor of the anthology, Realms of the Mothers: The First Decade of Dos Madres Press. Come hear him read alongside Dos Madres publisher Robert Murphy, Karen George and me on Saturday, April 29, 3 pm at the Downtown Library.


Nothing remains so. Even
soul-splitting darkest night is daily
repaired, all
the monsters
transformed. The gun
held on me
becomes a brilliant
green snake
braceleting the arm
of the robber.
Do not
doubt that nothing
has to be the way it is:
even the gnats
a-hover over the mown toad
in the yard
spin a great veil of grief
which at any moment
may be jerked aside
by beauty.

Richard Hague

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Downtown Walking by Preeti Parikh

Did I mention I loved sonnets? Yes, I believe I did! Preeti Parikh of Blue Ash wrote this lovely poem while participating in a Cincinnati Walking Sonnet workshops, starting off from the Mercantile Library. I invite you to read more of these at my page devoted to the Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Project and to try one on your own. Keep an eye out for upcoming workshops—I’m scheming up a Cincinnati Streetcar Sonnet Workshop for the summer. In the meantime, come hear Preeti read this poem tonight, April 26, 7 pm at the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading  at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine.

Downtown Walking

Hot dog stand-smell, a red and white canopy;
up in the wrought iron balconies, four ashen-
faced figurines in white robes and shawls,
their long skeletal fingers beseeching;
a sign on a storefront says–Safeguarding
the children–elsewhere–Divine love always has
met and always will meet every human need;
a homeless man, an etching in a stone facade;
a pink lotus on a green leaf (Saigon Subs and Rolls);
cascading rows of seats in the Paul Brown Stadium;
mounting traffic noise, a well dressed man asking
for spare change. I balk, clam up, walk back past
four porcelain doll jars with fancy hats for lids, and
balloons at the Square–primary colors, primary needs.

Preeti Parikh

Previously published online here.


Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Dear Heroin by Connie Murray

Here is a poem by Connie Murray (soon Hughes) of Florence, Kentucky on the difficult issue of addiction in our community. It is forthcoming in Connie’s second chapbook, The Mirror.


Dear Heroin

Thank you
Thank you for taking
the pain away
Our beloved
have happily succumbed
to your relief
The train track is
very clearly
spelled out
across our arms
We have reached
our destination


Dear Narcan

Your appearance
brings hope
it is only
a temporary
to a definitive
the grass
is SO
much greener
on the other side
Please step aside

Bob Marley

Connie Hughes

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Ghazal of the Lutanist by John Drury

Yesterday a sonnet, today a ghazal by poet and University of Cincinnati professor John Drury, also of North Avondale (and our sonnet writer LaWanda Walter’s husband.) John will read his poetry at the Cincinnati Library’s Poetry in the Garden Series on April 25, 7 pm in the Downtown Library.) Notice how each couplet’s refrain is made fresh with each repetition.

Ghazal of the Lutanist

Ever Dowland, ever doleful, the lutanist says come again
to melancholy, whether he’s silent or plays “Come Again.”

Invitations that mention “deadly pain” and wail “out, alas”
won’t seduce anyone but a masochist who prays Come! Again!

Torches at court leave shadows for uneasy liaisons,
dark rooms where ladies-in-waiting, in silent lays, come again.

Courtiers whisper on back stairs, place notes in ruffled sleeves,
but the lutanist can’t catch the phrase. Come again?

The page rubs his eyes before stretching gut strings along the lute
and poking around for the tuning peg’s eye. Dark days come again.

When panes of leaded glass fill like goblets with tinted light,
John is fingering scales on his lute as sun rays come again.

John Drury

The poem first appeared in Able Muse (Summer 2011) and was reprinted in John’s most recent book, Sea Level Rising (Able Muse Press, 2015). The book’s website includes a video in which the poet’s reading of the poem is accompanied by lutanist Rodney Stucky playing pieces by Dowland. Here’s the link.

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: How Girls Walk Through the Eye of a Needle by LaWanda Walters

I’ve grown to love the sonnet form over the last few years, a perfect pocket for holding those quarrels we have with ourselves (a definition of poetry offered by William Butler Yeats.) Here is a fine one by LaWanda Walters of North Avondale.

How Girls Walk Through the Eye of a Needle

The girls are getting slimmer now as if, perhaps,
to keep themselves from mothers’ fates.
They float in thin blouses above the fat plates,
their bodies forced like flowers into shape.
Not eating gives them a high window ledge
from which to contemplate life—an ascetic,
cloistered place. On the back pocket of jeans they like,
a tiny, red-inked Buddha smiles. “True Religion”
jeans are hard to get into, expensive and just
for the thinnest. I say, out loud, “it’s like binding feet,”
embarrassing my daughter. But I did think
of those rich-girl feet that could not walk right—
at night they’d unwind the binding and the stink
drove husbands wild. Girls turn to bone so love will last.
LaWanda Walters
—First published in Danse Macabre (Issue 79, May 2014)
—Reprinted in Light Is the Odalisque (Press 53, Silver Concho Poetry Series, 2016)

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Poems by Gwyneth Stewart and Scott Whitehurst

Here are two poems by Gwyneth Stewart and by Scott Whitehurst, both from Pleasant Ridge, about family, travel and home.
Blue Mountain Lake

It began in quiet summer pre-dawn,
the trip day-long before the interstate.
Lunch at the Peter Pan Diner–
milkshakes and burgers.

We counted up the Fulton Chain of Lakes
finally turned on to Route 28
eyes peeled for The Prospector gift shop,
our house right across from it.

Late afternoon we fell out of the car
ran down the shaded path to strip of sand,
cold navy Adirondack water, Blue Mountain
a pyramid of green beyond.

Two weeks filled with stair-step cousins.
We wore bathing suits from breakfast
to dinner, fretted through the long hour
after lunch when the water was forbidden us.

The great Grumman canoe could hold
five kids, took us to the island for picnics,
rode the wake of ancient mahogany
lake boats from the lodge.

Minnowbrook, the last great camp–
The caretaker took us there on his rounds.
Our voices, our feet too loud
in the high-ceilinged empty rooms.

Warned away from the woods with
stories of lost children, we went anyway,
just to feel pillowy moss and slick
old pine needles beneath bare feet.

We fished for sunnies under crimson
skies, the clouds lit like paper lanterns
long after sunset. We fell asleep and woke
to the scent of fresh water and sharp pine.

It lingered on clothes, hair, skin,
long after we returned home.

Gwyneth Stewart


All Night Diner

My brother comes to mind
when I come here late at night
Of him sitting in my living room
high from talking
from driving all day from Georgia
from the freedom of leaving our sister’s
confining house and habits

It is one in the morning
and I have been up since four
And he asks me,
Is there an all night diner?
It’s so great talking with you
I love these conversations we have
I wish you lived closer
I could stay up all night

I think hard for I am tiring fast
I think of the family restaurants
on my side of town
long since closed
and the franchises, too, that have
shuttered for the evening
I come up empty

My brother laughs,
Come on! This is Cincinnati!
It’s a city- there’s got to be
something open!
I tell him of how the city
rolls up the streets a little after ten,
that the traffic lights turn to blinking
fluttering like eyes closed in REM sleep

Honestly I cannot think of a place.

I long to stay up all night talking
as he wishes
but I cannot
for my twenty-four hours are almost done
He bids me goodnight then
and stays downstairs
Where he can watch tv and sleep on the couch

My brother comes to mind
when I come here late at night
Come visit me again, I think
I know a place now
where we can sit and talk
late or early

Come visit me
and we will talk ‘til three
and watch people eat three-ways
and grilled cheese sandwiches
like those priests over there
sharing their own Last Supper,
a brief respite during Holy Week-
and we’ll hear the laughter of carry-out customers
beat a counterpoint to Rockin’ Robin

Visit me and we will solve the Universe
We’ll figure out how string theory will someday unify
quantum mechanics and relativity
and think about how that string
might be a Mobius strip
and how many dimensions are there really
and what if God is one of those dimensions
and can we actually slow time
by being observers?

We’ll sit and talk and eat and feel satisfied
and slow time
Then we will go home and say,
I love these conversations we have.
I wish you lived closer.

Scott Whitehurst

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine