new publication: woodlands anthology

The amazingly talented editor, d. ellis phelps, has done it again!
I couldn’t be more honored to be a contributor to this beautiful project with my poem (and opening piece of this anthology!),”American Beech.”

Huge American Beech Tree trunk and large roots spread out like feet.

American Beech

Let’s try, here,
in the cloud-grey
of this centuries-old beech—
stunning Bathsheba,

her toes, immense,
clinging to the path’s edge—
to be held
tightly enough;

let’s try, in this world
feathered green,
its daylight’s golden
crowns & rosy breasts,

its predawn depths
teeming with robin-songs,
to dream ourselves
being alive:

Shouldn’t we try
to wake up
high in this tree,
in tranquil forest-scent,

roll over, lean
the other cheek against her
smooth-muscled wood
& listen?

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

formidable woman sanctuary

It’s a Wrap!

After months (four to be exact) of work, sorting through and considering hundreds of submissions, sending out acceptances and declines (thank goodness for Submittable), asking for and recording permissions and adding contributors to my database, re-reading and arranging the book, creating a cover image (many thanks to Cynthia Yachtman for her art that graces the cover), sending out the proof copy, publishing the digital version here, answering hundreds of emails, re-reading and making edits and more, woodlands (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2022) is finally ready!

This beautiful anthology includes the work of forty-nine writers and artists (we’ve included full-color art this time) from across the United States, Canada, and South America, most of whom are accomplished, seasoned writers.

The title poem and the concept for the book were generous gifts from Spirt Thom. His poem, 14 Ways to Stay Awake is the finale for the book…

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New Poem Up at The Dodge!

A huge praying mantis poses a bit menacingly atop a grill cover in the backyard.

I’m proud and excited to share my new poem, “Praying Mantis,” which has found the loveliest of homes at The Dodge Literary Magazine! Thank you to poetry editor Leah Kaminski for selecting and championing my work and to managing editor Jamie A. M. for their efficient, beautiful, and meticulous work on the webpage layout.

“Praying Mantis” is the first to be published of a series of poems I’ve been composing in a newly-invented experimental form (yes, there’s more where this one came from!), which my son, Matthew, has brilliantly and aptly named the “In-titled Poem.”

Cento Published in The Night Heron Barks

I’m pleased to share that my poem, “(Cento) Because the world is,” is now live in the magnificent collection of visual and literary art that is the Spring 2022 issue of The Night Heron Barks. I’m grateful to editor Rogan Kelly for including my cento (a poem cobbled together from the words of other poets) among such a lineup of literary stars (please do check them out!). What an honor! 

Hope Springs Eternal & So Does Willie Nelson

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Hope Springs Eternal & So Does Willie Nelson

Posted in honor of his 88th birthday!

Another death hoax? Gee, how original…
You folks ain’t fickle—guess I’ll give ya points
fer grit if not fer gumption. I’ve rolled joints
my friends, far stiffer than my tricky ankle,
imbibed red wine that’s older than yer gran’;
this here bandana holds more DNA
than most small countries on a holiday,
so keep your Internet! Just leave the bedpan
close, gas up the bus, & brace for twenty
more long years—well, give or take a decade.
The road’s a callin’, songs are in my head,
& my ol’ guitar plays as good as any;
there’s plenty weed to smoke & hair to braid:
So’s far as I can tell, I’m still not dead.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Understory

Understory

Understory

Within these riparian depths, you press
through the ditch weed & grasses that shadow
the river in greens, trying to listen
for rustles of life where dead branches lie
gathered in bands along the banks like smoke
from summer’s fire that stripped the hills to stone.

This windless spring day voices strange like stone
breathes; its bufflehead-queer, top-heavy press
across the stream’s glassy gape damps the smoke
trees’ plea for breezy reprieve in shadow—
red buds purpling with their own blooms’ weight lie
flattened to their boughs, assuaged to listen

for a far-off storm’s faint peals. You listen
for a reason to turn from your cold, stone
descent—do the unearthed cedar roots lie
about the travails of erosion? Press
them for answers, you’ll get back the shadow
of your own doubts cleaved in moss thick as smoke.

Is silence its own story, or a smoke
screen for more forbidding fables? Listen
to the garter snake slip into shadow—
when its shift through the weeds turns up a stone
that no one sees, does it make a sound? Press
your palm against a garbled trunk & lie

about the story your closed eyes see; lie
supine like tinder on a pyre until smoke
wafts from the ashes you become; or press
past the bank’s last thorny thicket & listen
for bitterns to make their water-gulped-stone
intentions known, as if your looming shadow

could spur their ardor. What is that shadow,
if not the sun’s scorn for your darkest lie?
No river embodies hope for the stone
waiting on Sisyphus to outrun smoke.
Hope is a myth the robins tell their hatchlings: Listen
at your own peril—for when the flames press

in, bearing tidings of shadow & smoke,
the first lie you listen to will make you
their stone shrine to the robins’ skyward press…

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Robin's Nest

“Understory” was published in Issue 13 (Fall 2019) of Panoply. Thank you to editors Jeff Santosuosso, Ryn Holmes, and Andrea Walker for selecting this piece.