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! 

Two Poems up at Cathexis Northwest Press

citizen-tree

My poems, “Missive (to the White Oak’s Depths)” and “Elegy for My Former Self,” are live in the July 2021 issue of Cathexis Northwest Press. Heartfelt thanks to editor C. M. Tollefson for selecting these pieces. 

Please also enjoy the audio renditions of these poems, courtesy of—your favorite poet and mine—the one and only Robert Okaji!

Elegy for My Former Self.jpg!d

3 Poems Up at Literati Magazine!

Many thanks to editor Renée Sigel of Literati Magazine for featuring my poems, “Rewording,” “Titanoboa cerrejonensis,” and “Ghazal of the Lost,” in the publication’s Portfolio Series of previously rejected poems. Yes, a majority of my poems that make it out into the world tend to experience a healthy dose of rejection before seeing the light of day, and I greatly appreciate that Renée saw fit to bring these three stragglers in out of the cold.

While “Ghazal of the Lost” was a cooperative child, Literati Magazine found the formatting of “Rewording” and “Titanoboa cerrejonensis” to be somewhat combative, so I’ll provide the texts as they should appear below:

Crocus in snow, purple spring flower.

Rewording

_____Your laugh is the child I never knew,
a promise kept nascent like a crocus
__________beneath a winter of detritus—

_____I never knew a crocus
could reword the daylight
__________with spring’s first mist.

_____How I’d wished the earth’s iron bellows
would recast the sky’s crimson artefacts
__________my lost will had smelted into slag,

_____until living through my bitterest nights
of seismic heartbeats weathered into stalagmites
__________finally tempered my breaths alive!

_____Now, their embers light my way
to the tenderness you well in your eyes:

_____Amassed like snowdrifts
the rising moon velvets in her white hush,
__________it is the naked quiet of us

rewording the daylight

_____into ash branches
__________lustered with dusk’s winter cloak;

_____a crocus sheltered in warm mulch
__________beneath the moonlit ice;

_____your laugh,
__________the child I never knew;

_____a promise kept
__________nascent in winter’s womb.

***

Titanoboa

Titanoboa cerrejonensis

_____When this restrictive skin
of self-pity refuses to slough off
_____& relinquish its groaning contents      my pain

sends me to my prehistoric depths—
_____sliding through my black     encapsulated veins
with questions of utility & necessity forking my tongue

_____into a device primed for maximal receptivity
scouring the fossil record
_____for evidence of fortitude       where I find you

fifty-eight million years ago
_____at the height of your dominion
in the Cerrejón Rain Forest     in what is now

an arid sweep of Northern Colombia

_____There     your legacy swims its secrets
into my stagnant heart     transforms my
_____mudstone back into supple blood

& re-designs me in your magnificent image
_____that I may waggle my muscled girth
_into a forty-eight-foot-long series of esses

_____effortlessly conveyed upon the swamp’s
vast network of currents     slip out
_____of my twisted     anthropic pelvis

& encumbering limbs     & vanquish
_____gravity’s inflammatory breath
_in the clutches of my cold     unshakable coils

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.