The Reading I Gave Last Night

Hey there. Last night I gave a reading of my work from The Sharp Edges of Water for Writespace. In case you couldn’t be there in Houston last night but wanted to hear some of my poetry and flash fiction, here’s the video from Writespace’s Instagram page. It’s an informal livestream, replete with the occasional technological hiccup and handcam excitement, but overall the audio quality is good and the video quality pretty good most of the time. The person introducing mea at the beginning and commenting at the end is Jamie Portwood, Writespace’s programming director and reading host. Enjoy!

I’m Giving a Poetry Reading on Friday

This Friday evening (May 26th), if you’re in Houston, come on by Antidote Coffee on Studewood for the Writespace open mic poetry reading. I’ll be the featured reader there that night and would love to see you in the audience! And if you write poetry, I’d love to hear one of your poems during the open mic portion of the event! (You’ll need to sign up here ahead of time if you intend to read a poem, and you can RSVP for the event at this link as well.)

The event starts at 7:00 p.m., but you’ll want to get there earlier than that to get a seat. Prepare for street parking. I’ll be reading from The Sharp Edges of Water and some pieces from my newer (as yet unpublished) collection.

There’s also going to be an Itty Bitty Book Fair that night, so you can snag copies of my books and zines and probably some others as well.

I hope to see you there this Friday evening! Click the link above for all the logistical details.

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