My Own ‘First Folio’

I’m grateful to Williwaw Journal for choosing five of my poems for its very first folio, as part of its Spring 2021 issue. 

It’s generous and supportive of editor Rachel Barton to give me the space and allow me a more extensive bio than magazines usually provide

The poems are “Jack Pine,” an ekphrastic response to a painting by Canadian F. H. Varley; “Missouri Ozarks,” a sad story about a man who loved flowers; “Cutting Button Blanks on the Illinois River,” an effort to imagine what it must have been like to work in the fresh-water mussel business at its height in western Illinois; “Chicago Cold,” an ekphrastic response to a painting by Chicagoan Francis Chapin; and “The Ridge at Meadowbrook,” an effort to feel my way into the post-glacial geologic sweep of a place where I often walk.

The link to my work is http://willawawjournal.com/folio-john-palen/, but please read the rest of the issue for the fine poems by other writers and the gorgeous flower paintings by Daniel DeRoux.

A Poem and an Interview

The on-line poetry journal Sheila-Na_Gig has published my poem, “A Carefully Dressed Man,” in its latest issue at https://sheilanagigblog.com/the-poets-volume-5-3-spring-2021/john-palen/. The poem is an ekphrastic response to a self-portrait by American artist Edward Hopper.

In the same issue of Sheila-Na-Gig is a poem by local poet Frank Modica. Check it out at https://sheilanagigblog.com/the-poets-volume-5-3-spring-2021/frank-c-modica/.

Also, Urbana poet Emily Kerlin has published an interview with me in the current issue of Blue Mountain Review. Thanks, Emily.

The link to the issue is https://issuu.com/collectivemedia/docs/bluemountainreviewfeb21 and the interview is on page. 32

Poem for a Cold Season

I’ve been waiting for a cold spell to blog-publish this poem, which came out recently in Great Lakes Review. Pull a chair up next to the fire with a hot cup of something. Hope you enjoy it.

Beater on the Ice

My idea of a god

is northern Michigan’s

winter, its implacability,

its disregard for us.

The sun disappears.

We wake in darkness

eat supper in darkness.

Day is a brief shining, dull as lead.

Snowbanks close in around us,

marriages and friendships

strain at the seams.

The ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald

founders off Whitefish Point.

The last transmission:

“We’re holding our own.”

An annual ritual saves us.

Someone drives a donated beater,

a rusted-out Charger or Civic,

out onto thick ice on the inland lake

and we set up a betting pool

on when it will break through.

It sits there all winter,

a graying bulk in relentless snow,

staring at us with two blank eyes

like an animal waiting to be sacrificed.

On a still-cold day under a fair sky

the lonely old car will settle a bit, as if tired.

Before an expectant crowd

a corner will tip into the thaw,

then another, then the whole thing

will slide back and under

like the Titanic in the movie.

Released from the spell

we’ll celebrate at Jim and Mary’s Lakeside

and wonder at the crazy things we do

to stay sane.

A Place on the Eastern Shore

The Delmarva Peninsula encompasses the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia as well as most of the state of Delaware. Mostly rural and agricultural, it’s a laid-back place with its own unique atmosphere. We paid it a memorable visit years ago while I was on a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship in Baltimore.

I’m delighted that Delmarva Review, an annual literary magazine published on the peninsula, has accepted four of my poems — “At the Community Gardens,” “Digging Dandelions,” “Caches,” and “The Old Naturalist” — for publication in the November issue.

All four poems have to do with aging. I’ll share them here after the magazine comes out. Meanwhile, check out its web page at https://delmarvareview.org

Urbana Poets at Work

Congratulations to two Urbana poets: Ashanti Files, who is the city’s new poet laureate, and Matthew Murrey, who has a new poem in the online magazine Split Rock Review.

Ms. Files is the founder of Writers of Oya, a writing program for girls of color in the Urbana school district. A registered nurse, she succeeds Will Reger as poet laureate. You can read more about her at https://www.smilepolitely.com/splog/ashanti_files_is_city_of_urbanas_next_poet_laureate/

Murrey’s poem, The Poisoner, appears in the current issue of Split Rock Review (not too many pages separated, by the way, from poems by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser). Murrey is an Urbana High School librarian. His first book, Bulletproof, was published in 2019 by Jacar Press. Read his poem at https://www.splitrockreview.org/matthew-murrey

A Pushcart Nominee

I’m honored that Sleet magazine has nominated my poem “Learning to Float” for a Pushcart Prize. Pushcart’s Best of the Small Presses series has been published since 1976. About 200 small presses and literary journals choose six nominees each for inclusion.

Other 2020 nominees from Sleet are George Moore, who lives in Nova Scotia; Stephanie Cummings, New York City; Mark Simpson, Whidbey Island, Washington; Carol Barrett, Bend, Oregon; and Epiphany Ferrell of Illinois. Read my poem at http://sleetmagazine.com/selected/palen_v12n1.html.

Poems at Sleet, Hamilton Stone

I’m very happy to have a poem, “Learning to Float,” in Sleet, at http://sleetmagazine.com/selected/palen_v12n1.html.

Be sure to take a look at the other content, poetry and prose, in this sharply edited online magazine.

Also I have two poems, “Blue Piano” and “At the Supermarket After an Early Snow”, included in the latest issue of Hamilton Stone Review, which came out this week. The poems are at http://hamiltonstone.org/hsr43poetry.html#palen

While you’re there, check out Urbana Poet Laureate Will Reger’s two poems in the same issue, at http://hamiltonstone.org/hsr43poetry.html#reger

New Work Coming Out Soon

I’m delighted to have work coming out soon in five magazines — two of them places that have not published my work before.

I’m a returning contributor to Sheila-Na-Gig, with two poems; Sleet with one poem; and Off the Coast, with one poem.

I’m a first-time contributor to Hamilton Stone Review, with two poems, and Flint Hills Review, with a prose memoir of my father’s clothing store in a small town in the Midwest.

I’ll let you know when the publications occur and will post links.

Also, I’ll be reading this Friday on Zoom with poets and prose writers published in the latest issue of Ocotillo Review.