Sculpture by Meredith Bergmann, installed accompanied by this poem, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC

THE NAMING

Lopez, Jurgens, Lozowsky, O’Connor, Lomax
(Shoes, and spirals, dust and the falling flowers)
Diaz, Dingle, Galletti, DiPasquale,
Katsimatides

Wounds widen the remembering earth.
Closed eyes see beyond the flames.
Grief opens hands to feel the wind.
Heart beats like ocean and hears the names:

DiStefano, Eisenberg, Chung, Green, Dolan,
(Women running suddenly in their high heels)
Penny, York, Duarte, Elferis, Sliwak,
Yamamadala,

Closed eyes see beyond the flames.
Grief opens hands to feel the wind.
Heart beats like ocean and hears the names.

Wounds widen the remembering earth:
Weinstein, Villanueva, West, Sadaque,
(Spirals, dust and spiralling dust and hours)
Bowman, Burns…


An Online Scansion Class

First appeared in American Poetry Review, January 2020

To begin with a definition: A poem is a text structured (not merely decorated, but structured — which means constrained) by the repetition of any language element(s).

Because any repeating language element can structure/constrain a poem, the continuum of poetic constraint is extensive, stretching from operations that a reader will find completely imperceptible to overwhelmingly obvious ones. When we think of poetic constraint, we usually think first of discernible language operations. …


Note: this piece was originally published in Her Circle Ezine in 2011. Since that link is no longer live and the issues persist, I’m posting it here as well. — AF

Finally, VIDA has published the numbers. What many of us have long known, or at least suspected, is now incontrovertible truth: women are not published nearly as much as men in most venues in the literary world. As editors (of both genders) scramble to justify familiar sexist publication practices, you can expect to hear these usual excuses: 1. It’s not our fault; women just don’t send us their writing…


Patient earth-diggers, impatient fire-makers,

Hungry word-takers and roving sound-lovers,

Sharers and savers, musers and achers,

You who are open to hide or uncover,

Time-keepers and –haters, wake-sleepers, sleep-wakers:

May language’s language, the silence that lies

Under each word, move you over and over,

Turning you, wondering, back to surprise.

Poet, author, and performer Annie Finch is the author most recently of The Poetry Witch Little Book of Spells (Wesleyan University Press) and Choice Words: Writers on Abortion (Haymarket). Her other works include six volumes of poetry, a poetry CD, poetry anthologies, criticism, an award-winning verse play, translation, music collaborations, and…


A good apology has five parts— and we tend to forget a crucial one

About a decade ago, I found myself in need of making a serious apology — the kind of apology where a lot hangs in the balance. I made my apologies over and over, but none of them worked; the hurt feelings lingered on. It was a wake up call. For the first time in my life, I realized that apologizing is a skill and that my skill level was not up to the task. In desperation, I started to explore and research what makes an effective…


How the proportions of a revolutionary poetic form connect us to nature

Sociologists have discovered a surprising fact. When a group of people are in an unfenced space, no matter how large, they gravitate towards the outskirts and leave the middle empty. On the other hand, in a fenced space, they will spread out and enjoy the use of the whole area. Maybe this truth helps explain the charm of courtyards, and the fact that the etymology of the word “paradise” is simply “a walled enclosure.” …


Cover image from CALENDARS by Annie Finch (Tupelo Press)

This poem is written in a form invented by Billy Collins, a parody of the elaborate forms used by the Troubadours. Each stanza repeats two lines exactly, then repeats two more lines exactly, then mixes up all the words in those lines — and no other words — to create two more lines. When I was asked to contribute to the definitive anthology of the form The Paradelle (Red Hen Press, 2006), it was near Valentine’s Day, so the poem became one of my annual valentines to my husband Glen. Please note: the poem is designed to be read aloud.


Louise Labé is a deeply, and paradoxically, passionate poet. Her elaborate metaphors and frank self-reflection in the face of intricate feelings are as heroic, in their own context, as Emily Dickinson’s. Her passion, her courage, her playfulness, and her pain reflect struggles not only of the emotions but of the spirit. The paradox in her work is that she is not a metaphysical poet or a religious poet, but solely a love poet. The searching voice Labé projects in her poetry is strengthened in its individuality, made more complex, by her focus on her feelings towards another.

Although Louise Labé…


On Revising “Revelry,” 13 Years Later

If I had known, when I promised to write a poem for Cincinnati’s Sitwells Café, how many revisions it would go through and how long it would take, I might have thought better of the offer. My friend Lisa Storey, the owner of Sitwells, had been dislodged unceremoniously from her previous building by the landlord, and I was trying to give her moral support for the move to a new café space. After all, as I was in the habit of reminding my poetry students at Miami University, poetry deserves a place in public and private life, not just on…


Annie Finch in ritual. Photo by Miriam Berkley

In 2011, one third of women in the U.S. reported that they had been victims of sexual assault (rape, stalking, beating, or a combination of assaults). If that definition were widened to include the far more common sorts of sexual abuse described in my first post, the percentage of us whose hearts have been damaged, voices silenced, and power shamed or weakened in some way by sexual abuse would, it seems safe to guess, approach close to 100%. And if that is the situation in the U.S., …

Annie Finch

Poetry Witch, Writer, Speaker, Performer. Author of Spells. A Poet’s Craft, etc. Director, Poets & Priestesses Community.

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