National Poetry Month 2023: Day 30

And now, the last Poem-A-Day for this year’s series is here. Thank you to everyone who has been following our National Poetry Month celebration and welcome to all of the new subscribers who have joined us this month!

Just a note: I will be posting a bit more sparsely in May for a variety of reasons:

  1. I need to finish up my semester, and that entails a LOT of work.
  2. My kid is graduating!! And that entails a LOT of activities.
  3. I’m late with the spring issue of Sonic Chihuahua and want to get it finished up in the next couple of weeks. It’s going to be awesome! But that ALSO entails quite a bit of work — particularly in chasing down a few things from some of this season’s contributors.

So don’t think I’ve abandoned you just because the posts become less frequent. It is, after all, May, and that’s a busy time for a schoolteacher. But fabulous things are on the horizon, and I can’t wait to tell you about them. Soon.

So tonight I’m featuring a poem by Marlon Lizama from his book Cue the writer: Cheers to the notion of Love, Hate, GOD, and Revolution. Enjoy!

“I Write”

I write
because of the moon
because the most high
allows ideas to attack me daily

because mc’s,
want to move the crowd
but I want to move

I write
because I was never taught to,
but I learned how to read
in spite of him and always for her

I write
because of the Alchemist
for the seasons in Nevada
and if Frida was alive
she would be my very best friend

I write
for Botero’s view on beauty
and Saul’s passion
I write
because I never knew my father
I barely know my mother
and my grandmother died

I write
for my version of a second hand
story passed down to me
through drunk tongues

I write to make you
to remind u that
you don’t know me

I write
for love,
for the idea of love,
for the idea of love
that I would give my life for

Injustices with baby fingers

I write
to gain courage for them,
sanity for me,
and to always keep her wooed

I write
because paper is sacrifice
to not let the tree die in vain
I write ultimately,
to be free


Marlon Lizama is a Poet/artist who focuses on the cultural aspect of writing and the arts. Coming to the United States at the age of nine, he discovered himself in the sub-culture called Hip Hop. Joining a group which quickly became world-renowned through competition, theater, workshops, and cultural exchange programs, Havikoro represented a group of young dancers, poets, and artists that put Houston on the world culture map. Marlon has been to over forty countries through competition, performances, poetry shows, and through working with the State Department. He is currently being supported by St. Paul’s Methodist through an artist-in-residence program in Houston, Texas, where he is currently creating a writing program that works with youth from all over the city. Youth groups include Sharpstown High School, incarcerated youth, St. Paul’s spiritual youth group, and Houston probation department. The goal of the program is to create writers and published young authors. Find him online at

National Poetry Month 2023: Day 29

In honor of the delightfully fun (and not gonna lie, super in-the-weeds nerdy) sonnets workshop I taught this weekend, here is a curtal sonnet for your enjoyment.

“Release” by R. S. Gwynn

Slow for the sake of flowers as they turn
     Toward sunlight, graceful as a line of sail
          Coming into the wind. Slow for the mill––
Wheel’s heft and plummet, for the chug and churn
     Of water as it gathers, for the frail
          Half-life of spraylets as they toss and spill.

For all that lags and eases, all that shows
     The winding-downward and diminished scale
          Of days declining to a twilit chill,
Breathe quietly, release into repose:
          Be still.


For detailed biographical information on R. S. Gwynn, click here to be taken to his Poetry Foundation page. But also? He lives and teaches in east Texas, not that far from Houston.

National Poetry Month 2023: Day 27

Today I’m sharing a poem by Tova Hinda Siegel, whose work I first encountered during the PoetrySuperHighway’s Great Poetry Exchange one year. I’m thinking about home these days: what it means, how it functions, and what it means to leave and come back to it. I’m also thinking about what it means to be a writer, and how one accomplishes that in the face of a thousand other tasks.

Not Writing about Home

I search for the poem
just as I searched for my mother,
sick in her giant bed. My father slept 
next to her, his snoring
reliable as Montreal winter. Days filled 
with bitter snow and blinding cold
melted by the glow in the fireplace.

I search for the sounds and smells that
will grow into words to fill the page.
Bubby’s chocolate cake drifting
through the walls,
the Shabbos dinners raucous with laughter,
the original-of-its-kind dishwasher, 
cranking and buzzing
(my father always the first with the latest).
The TV in my mother’s room drones into the night; 
the antiseptic stench of her illness
mixes with the aroma 
of half eaten chocolates on her bed.

Like a doomed species
the pages refuse 
to evolve. Stubborn and obstinate
like the child I was in those days.
My piano teacher fled 
crying when I refused to practice,
smugly victorious.
So willful, I almost failed 8th grade, 
homework cast aside,
my chances as a ballerina evaporated 
because I chose a boyfriend’s visit over an audition.
Immediate pleasure over long term gain.
I would give birth to a poem, 
stubborn and obstinate, 
like me.

I try to revisit that place. 
The warmth of the winter rooms, 
the sound of my father 
improvising at the organ,
my brother’s incessant violinning,
but the door opens 
only briefly, teasing me
with hints of what’s remembered,
then closes once again
leaving me 


Tova Hinda Siegel, a writer/poet, is a midwife, cellist, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of many children living around the world. After earning a BA from Antioch and an MS from USC, she began writing and has studied with Jack Grapes, Tresha Faye Haefner, Taffy Brodesser-Akner among others. Her work has appeared in, I’ll Take Wednesdays, On The Bus, MacQueens’s Quinterly, Gyroscope Review, Poetry SuperHighway, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Better than Starbucks, and several anthologies. Her first collection, Uncertain Resident, was published recently. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband.

National Poetry Month 2023: Day 26

I always love to feature work from Taylor Byas, an absolutely excellent voice in the poetry world. This is a poet to keep an eye out for: her work is great, and she has such a way with formal verse, even centuries-old forms, that brings it very much into the present moment. Case in point, this adept sestina.

Drunken Monologue From An Alcoholic Father’s Oldest Daughter

My friends say I should have been a therapist and it ain’t funny
no more. I ain’t seen a dollar of pay for this labor, all my pretending—
who do I see about my check? My father says I just need somebody
to talk to when he calls. He’s sitting in our house alone
looking at old pictures and drinking. I still love my wife, I still love
my wife. And if I answer the phone, I gotta be the mother

he missed out on as a kid. I pick up and I gotta turn on a mother’s
softness. But I ain’t gave birth to nothing. Never felt that funny
feeling of my second self latching on to the first. How do you love
something that looks right through you? You gotta pretend,
act like you understand. My father says I spent Christmas alone
for the first time in my life and man I swear somebody

needs to give me an Oscar for the way I sounded like somebody’s
momma. Said God gon’ work it out. But I know my mother
did the right thing. Left him. My brother and sister were alone
with him for hours while she was gone, and I, you know, I just felt funny
about it. And the way my father would call me pretending
he was the victim when I knew what it really was. Maybe we all loved

the chaos a little bit, having a place to put the blame. Maybe I loved
the way they needed me. But I ain’t love the pressure. Somebody
told me that I was the glue that held it all together. Now I gotta pretend
that’s a compliment, I gotta “ha-ha” and “he-he” when they call me “mother
2.0.” I laugh and say I don’t even need kids anymore but what’s so funny
about that, a hatred that spreads to the womb? I’ve had a lot of alone

time to wonder about the choices my father makes. Being alone
over rehab, over family. Sometimes I say that motherfucker don’t love
me to myself in the mirror real tough. And I keep saying it until it’s funny,
until I’m laughing and then I’m crying and then I sound like somebody
dying when I start coughing from both. Sometimes I ask my mother
what happened to him and she just says it’s sad. Most times, I pretend

I feel the same and I “mhm” on the phone but this time I can’t pretend
no more. I say momma I know you feel bad for leaving him alone
but it was the right thing to do. I say you did what any mother
would have done. I say the kids know you did it out of love,
to protect them. She silent, so I say momma he could have killed somebody
and she says hardy-har-har, real funny. But just how funny

if we ain’t laughing? I want to say something in the silence, something funny,
but I know my mother wants to be left alone when she pretends
to yawn. So I tell her I love her. And I don’t remember who hangs up. Somebody.

This poem originally appeared in Soft Punk Magazine.


Dr. Taylor Byas, Ph.D. (she/her) is a Black Chicago native currently living in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is currently a Yates scholar at the University of Cincinnati, an Associate Editor for The Cincinnati Review, an Assistant Features Editor for The Rumpus, and a Poetry Acquisitions Editor for Variant Literature. She is the author of the chapbook Bloodwarm from Variant Literature, a second chapbook, Shutter, from Madhouse Press, and her debut full-length, I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times, forthcoming from Soft Skull Press in August of 2023. She is also a co-editor of The Southern Poetry Anthology, Vol X: Alabama, forthcoming from Texas Review Press, and of Poemhood: Our Black Revival, a YA anthology on Black folklore from HarperCollins. She is represented by Rena Rossner of the Deborah Harris Agency.

National Poetry Month 2023: Day 25

This past Saturday I was one of the featured authors at LitFest, a new book festival put on by Lit Book Bar. (They’re a mobile pop-up bookshop, and I love what they do! You can also find my titles there.) Even though the weather wasn’t ideal, we had a lovely crowd, and the featured authors all had a chance to give a reading or, in the case of the children’s book authors, lead an activity. I gave a poetry reading — which was so much fun to do! — and my colleague Adam Holt performed some of his original music. He also read a poem, which I wanted to feature on the blog this month.

A Poet of Space

I am a poet of space,
risen from the crippled campfire
like smoke, but not smoke, because smoke
diffuses in the shape-thieving air,
and I keep my shape:
I am a poet of space.

In the gentleness beyond fire and awake
I craft for you the skyborn new desert:
cactus is velvet,
the snake’s rattle an oboe reed—
discordant symphonics
from the elsewhere
of this place.

Squeeze now the waking from your eyes
and the desert, too.
Shutter the eyelids. Open the soul,
for manna falls to seal the one and open the other.
Watch the appaloosa rest in the ravine
from on high, from here, 
with me.

Let the mind rise
above the crippled campfire
and soul renew its peace in this place:
I am a poet of space.


Adam Holt writes novels, poems, and occasionally songs. He began his writing career in 2013 with the publication of The Conspiracy Game, the first in a four-part science fiction series. His poems have appeared in works from Mutabilis Press, SMU’s Pony Expressions, and the Color:Story Art Exhibition. Find him and his work @adamholtwrites on Twitter or Instagram. 

National Poetry Month 2023: Day 24

Happy Shakespeare’s birthday (and deathday)! Here below is one of his sonnets for you to enjoy.

But first, a note about sonnets: they have an interesting structure that goes beyond rhyme scheme and fourteen lines. In fact, we have both traditional sonnets (of which Shakespeare’s work is one example) and modern sonnets (which sometimes bear little to no resemblance to the traditional ones).

I’m teaching a workshop this Saturday afternoon — on Zoom, so you can all be there! — for Writespace about sonnets. Here’s the blurb about it and a link to register. (Shakespeare’s poem is after that.) There are still spots available as of this morning, so come join us!

Beyond Shakespeare: Writing Sonnets for This Century

Yes, the sonnet is an old form, but it’s been made new in a plethora of different ways in our modern era. For example, they don’t all have to be fourteen lines and about love anymore. In this generative workshop we’ll acknowledge the traditional masters of this art form while also exploring the many ways the sonnet has evolved. We’ll cover six different types of rhyme and the expanded range of subjects the sonnet now typically embraces, and we’ll dive into what it means when we say, “The sonnet is an argument.” This class will be a mixture of instruction and writing time, with the possibility of feedback on your work in a supportive atmosphere.

This course is appropriate for all skill levels. It makes a wonderful sequel to Kendra Leonard’s workshop on meter, but there are truly no prerequisites for it; you don’t have to take the meter class to take this one.


Sonnet 19

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-liv’d Phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one more heinous crime:
O, carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen!
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet do thy worst, old Time! Despite thy wrong
My love shall in my verse ever live young.


Click on these links for the Shakespeare posts from 2018 and 2019 for some biographical information and images of him. I’ll warn you that the bios get more irreverent as time goes on, and I’ll add that he’s one of the few old dead white guy authors I think we still need to teach. Cheers!

National Poetry Month 2023: Day 23

Tonight I’m featuring another lovely poem by Elina Petrova. I especially admire the seamless way it inhabits both present and past, familiar and unfamiliar spaces, meditation and memory. My own practice of mindfulness is a constant battle to focus, and this poem highlights that tension really well.

Quỳnh Says

“Breathe in. Push out. Close your eyes
and focus on sensations — scan your body.”

First time I squint, I see a younger version
of myself — all in black, with a ponytail.
“Breathe in. Let it go.”

Second time, I see petals. I’m in a boat laden
with hydrangeas and mangoes — a Vietnamese
with features of a lady breathing near me
on her green yoga mat. It doesn’t matter — her
or me. Everyone at their best is a mere breath,
a zipped pain, their first-love key keeper.
Say thanks to the heart that kept working
while you thought you couldn’t endure
anymore. Say thanks to the liver that kept
filtering toxins from frustration drinks.

Third time, I close my eyes, I open them
in the floating darkness with countless
emerald dots that remind me of a colored
X-ray image from the TESS telescope.
How do they register stellar music?
There is no sound in the cosmos. Leave
your iPad and talk to me while on the earth —
I’m a good listener. Attention is love.
Petals, petals … Thin soil to blossom.
A thin layer of oxygen to breathe —
less than four miles to stop the climb.
And 100,000 miles of brain vessels
to wire each thought with that oxygen.

Lying with twenty-seven Vietnamese
on the laminate floor above the
Hong Kong Food Market, I watch —
in a dark room — the full moon behind
a silhouette of Quỳnh leading Qigong
meditation in English. I hear old Xuân
pushing shopping carts in the corridor
to mop the white porcelain floor.
I watch the moonlit faces of my neighbors
napping on their mats, the same way
I glance at people saying grace,
the same way that, back in the USSR,
I used to glance at children
during nap time in kindergarten —
with some good thought about them,
as if I was not one of them.


Until 2007 Elina Petrova lived in Ukraine and worked in engineering management. She published two poetry books in English (Aching Miracle, 2015, and Desert Candles, 2019) and one in her native Russian language. Elina’s poems have appeared in Notre Dame Review, Texas Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Southwestern American Literature, Porter House Review, California Quarterly; anthologies by presses of Sul Ross State University, Lamar University and elsewhere. You can find her online at

National Poetry Month 2023: Day 22

I promise all the poems this coming week won’t be about grief, but sometimes we need those moments of such profound feeling that we break open our despair into lyric. One of my favorite quotes about grief was actually said by Bono: “There is no end to grief. That’s how we know there is no end to love.”

This poem by my friend and colleague Yolanda Movsessian certainly exemplifies that idea.

even roses blossom in the vale
-for Larry Lines

You died . . . for 6 minutes . . . forever stood still . . . with ice splinters in my eyes

my fire had no power to release you
from the beast eating away your insides

or your writhing pain

or your wasting

what is this collection of cells
with vast indigo spaces in between
rotating . . . multiplying . . . pulsing . . . dividing
generating bones organs emotions thoughts dreams


where does this body end and the outer rim begin

when the flurry of ice dancing around us tire and settle
what will they spell

next time Jupiter and Saturn rearrange themselves
and ghost trees shed their barks
You . . . will not . . . be here

I don’t know what the lesson is

when You turn into stardust and ash

I don’t know how to turn disintegration . . . into poetry

all I know

is the Silence

your absence . . . will dictate


the emptiness


Yolanda Movsessian is an Armenian born in Iran who currently lives in Houston, TX. She spends her free time writing, drawing, playing with her camera and plotting ways to steal her daughter’s beautiful velveteen cat. Her short stories have received recognition as the winner of Mississippi Review‘s 2020 prize for best fiction, finalist for Kallisto Gaia Press’ Chester B Himes Memorial Short Fiction Prize, and top 3 in the first round of NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2021. Yolanda’s writing, art, and photography have been featured in various publications such as Mississippi Review, Synkroniciti, Defunkt, and Equinox Magazines. Collaborating with various artists is one of her passions. Yolanda has collaborated with filmmaker Mitchell Collins on several cine-poems. Their last two projects “waxing gibbous 97% illuminated” won Judges’ first prize at the ReelPoetry Festival 2022, and “even roses blossom in the vale” won the Audience Award at ReelPoetry Festival 2023. The latter has also been accepted into Aurora Picture Show’s Extremely Shorts Festival coming up in May 2023.

National Poetry Month 2023: Day 21

I love featuring poetry by KB Brookins here on the blog. They’re an amazing poet I had the good fortune to share a stage with at Malvern Books in Austin several years ago. Tonight’s poem, “Good Grief,” encompasses so much more than the winter storm that incapacitated Texas a couple of years ago. 

Good Grief
after Texas Winter Storm Uri

I’ll admit that I’ve never thought about frostbite. 

Trauma of the blood, a thing to be avoided when heat goes out for an entire state.

I don’t know where to place this grief, this sweltering state freezing, politicians breezing over to a country that doesn’t have tissue choked out by its winter yet. 

The sky can only do what it does. 

The American government can only do what systems driven by green paper, violence, & ache can do. 

The trees bloom over dead bodies, missing. 

The sound of hands rubbing, engines purring, hopes that gas lights or chafing or the rapture won’t come first may quiver in my blood forever. 

I am Black but maybe I am doomed. 

Memory flashes like a computer screen; I see the zoom link expand. Colleagues process whatever failure number of a thousand this was this year and I can only remember white. 

Six inches deep, sunken into my boots all over. 

The timeline of friends stranded, impending doom of electricity shutting off, water pressure slipping into nothing every hour, pipes bursting on top of all that white. 

I haven’t recovered from seeing things that too closely resemble holes in a graveyard. 

I haven’t forgotten the project is due in 2 weeks. 

My therapist says take it easy as if capitalism is listening. As if the body will ever forget what it is given.

I am Black which is history, personified. 

I used to listen to “Pilot Jones fondly. With all this frostbite on my fingers, I’m not sure if I can type. 

I cannot finish another sentence on unity. 

What is unified about ERCOT letting us freeze? Knowing how to fix the problem & not doing it; how does that form a Kumbaya circle?

If I made art about every pain I’ve felt unjustly, I would be swimming in accolades for great American books. 

I would take back every word I’ve written if it ended this.

America is the worst group project. 

I’m writing a great American poem about suffering.

How much is going without food that isn’t canned for a week worth?

The absence of snow feels like betrayal. My memory mixes with American delusion. 

I can’t believe half the things that I’ve been through. 

Ice cold, baby, I told you; I’m ice cold. 

Who said it first, Frank Ocean or Christopher Columbus?

I’ve never been taught how to adequately mourn the nights spent bitching about a brisk wind; the night we almost got stranded trying to get to J before the cold swallowed them whole. 

I want to give everything I’ve been handed a good cry. Red skin & chapped lips deserve it. 

Good grief, what has Texas done to me. 

An article features a person walking past tents near I-35. 

I can’t cry about the body but I feel it.  

A highway splits a nation from its promise to be one

Everything feels blurry and the palm trees have died. 

Everything transported here withers away eventually. 

6 months later and I haven’t been able to shovel out my sadness. 

A news report said that it’s safe to go back to work. & I listen, because what else can you do in 6 inches of white. 

The snow melted and I still feel frostbitten. 

There are no heroes in a freeze-frame changing nothing. 

I pose begrudgingly. Say cheese & then write this. 

I’m not a survivor; just still breathing.

I remember grief, love’s grand finale.

What else do we have if not the memory of life? 

I cannot tell you how many lives I’ve lost to mourning, but I can tell you that the sky does what it does. 

Let’s go for a walk & touch the trees that survived like us. 

Let’s write a future more joyful & less inevitable in segments of leaves. 

Anything we dream will be better than this.

“Good Grief” was first published by You can order KB Brookins’ book Freedom House at this link, and this whole month the publisher is offering a 20% discount with the code READMORE if you buy it directly from them.


KB Brookins is a Black, queer, and trans writer, cultural worker, and artist from Texas. Their work is featured in, HuffPost, Poetry Magazine, Teen Vogue, RichesArt Gallery, American Poetry Review, Oxford American, Electric Literature, Okayplayer, and many other places. Their chapbook How To Identify Yourself with a Wound (Kallisto Gaia Press, 2022) won the Saguaro Poetry Prize and was named an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book in Literature. KB’s debut full-length poetry collection Freedom House (Deep Vellum Publishing, 2023) and their memoir Pretty (Alfred A. Knopf, 2024) are both forthcoming. 

Currently, KB is a National Endowment of the Arts fellow; MFA candidate at The University of Texas at Austin; Poet-in-Residence at Civil Rights Corps; and at work on their debut installation art project Freedom House: An Exhibition with Prizer Arts & Letters. They have earned fellowships from PEN America, Lambda Literary, and The Watering Hole among others. KB’s poem “Good Grief” won the Academy of American Poets 2022 Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize.