Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.

Things that Amuse. . .

Jeff Bahr has done many helpful things for poets. I first was introduced to him in the late 1990's at The Gazebo Workshop. He's been a helpful reader and critic of my own and many other's work. He has a useful publication rankings system. But his latest endeavor is funny, in that it plays on the strangeness of the life of a writer. Rejection? Yep, so what?

The Futility Review: save on postage, don't submit, they'll reject you anyhow. And in this case, retroactively.

Just so you know, I didn't submit or have my poems appear in the Winter 1999 issue, and I have a journal cover .jpeg to prove it.

Were you rejected too?

Dipping from the Well: Milosz

This is the first in series of extracts of poems from writers who have come before. Not necessarily their best work, but rather what caught my eye.


Tell me, for once at least laying
Caution aside, and fear and guarded speech,
Tell me, as you would in the middle of the night
When we face only night, the ticking of a watch,
The whistle of an express train, tell me
Whether you really think that this world
Is your home?

-- "An Appeal"

from New and Collected Poems 1931-2001 by Czeslaw Milosz



I left work rather abruptly after my diagnosis in January. I loved my windowless office at the university; it was my first work office of my own. Sure, I’ve held other jobs but none of them came with a space to call one’s own. The small room in the less traveled hallway meant that I was on my way to what I’d longed for: a life in academia.

I moved out on a weekend when no one was about; I didn’t think I could speak to anyone without crying. I didn’t want to have to talk about cancer or my treatment. The first cancer diagnosis was hard enough; the second was distressing and heartrending because this time I knew what to expect. I knew I’d have to give up teaching for the immediate future; life would shrink to treatments and doctor visits. Goodbye students, office, friends at the university, peace. I threw everything in storage boxes and we brought them home and put them in a closet. My books, my notes, my lesson plans, paperclips, highlighters: everything.

Now fall is here and I’ve been organizing. I opened the closet and began to sort through my papers. I went to the old office downstairs and brought up my poetry-writing papers and found all of my Army -wife- volunteering paperwork. The three stacks of belongings feel like evidence of three different lives. I have always had strong boundaries between different aspects of myself. I imagine that this is good for focus. When I am writing I am consumed by it, when I teach I am dedicated, when I volunteer I am committed, when researching and thinking critically: riveted.

You wouldn’t think that sorting through pens and papers and binder clips would elicit so much emotion. But the task has been a challenge for the emotional weight. I must be an imagist. Objects carry meaning for me. Manila folders: writing classroom and the flood of my student’s faces. Binder clips: reading final portfolios with my peers in graduate school. Notes and books: the pleasure of learning something new. A poster of a Monet painting: the moments when graduate school was overwhelming and I sat and stared into the painting to find peace. Sticky tabs: the excitement of marking pages of poetry as I planned my classes and the nervousness of standing in front of 30 strangers and declaring my passion. A small collection of floppy disks: the editors’ meetings and the informal conversations about poetry with my poet friend Dennis. A red chair, a bowl of silk geraniums: the silence of my office early in the morning before students as I prepared for the day.

Sometimes it is hard to breathe, but I have been making headway. I am preparing everything for the future and for the opportunities that the future must certainly bring.