Podcast Episode 12: “The Loss of the Moon” and “Snuffing the Night Candles”

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Welcome back to the Reckoning Press podcast. It’s been ages, but we’re ramping up to a lot of cool new stuff in the coming year and beyond, including lots more podcasts, a fundraiser to increase payrates to 10c/word, $50/page for poetry and pay staff better too, t-shirts, pins, who knows what else. Homebrew recipes. Foraging instructions. Bespoke lectures about culling invasive species. We’re flush with ideas, as we should be, but we’re always looking for more. Drop us a line if you’ve got any?

Reckoning Press is a US-based nonprofit; we flourish under your regard. Please support us on Patreon, consider donating directly, buy a book or an ebook, read our contributors’ beautiful work for free online, and submit! We’re always open to submissions, we’re always excited in particular to read work from Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, disabled, trans, or otherwise marginalized poets, writers and artists.

You can find all this and more on our website at: reckoning.press/support-us. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or by visiting reckoning.press/audio.

Thank you very much for listening.

Hi everyone, my name is Catherine Rockwood, I’m a staff member at Reckoning Magazine, and today I’ll be reading and discussing two poems from issue six: “The Loss of the Moon,” by Ken Poyner, and “Snuffing the Night Candles,” by Scott T. Hutchison. Ken Poyner’s poem is already up and free to read at https://reckoning.press, in case you want to follow along or go back to re-read it. Scott T. Hutchison’s “Snuffing the Night Candles” will be released on the website on May 8th. These poems speak so effectively to each other, and to the work of the magazine, that we decided to discuss them in the same episode.

I think probably the way this will work best is if I read you the poems first and then add some thoughts afterward. So, here goes, starting with author bios.

[Bios below.]

“The Loss of the Moon” by Ken Poyner

[“Snuffing the Night Candles” by Scott T. Hutchison will be available to read for free online on May 8th and in print on July 1st; if you’d rather not wait, get the ebook now.]

So, after listening to them, you probably have some thoughts about these poems: and the different levels of immediacy they bring to a shared consciousness of being present in a time of loss. “Snuffing the Night Candles” is more abstracted, its narrator’s depiction of his own experience more constrained by a sense of personal isolation, though the poem reaches out at the end for something I’ll talk more about in a minute.

In Ken Poyner’s poem, the narrator is always thinking about making it back home to his wife—temporarily isolated, but striving for connection. His habitual yet threatened return to his own home and partner is connected in the poem to the recurrence or return of things we depend on in the natural world: the changeful yet reliable moon, the changing yet predictable tides. So when the bottom falls out of all of it, in the poem, it’s a huge shock. It feels personal, as it’s meant to. “The Loss of the Moon” is so effective, I think, partly because it activates for the reader a lifetime of sense-memories of watching the moon from a moving car, or a moving vehicle of some kind. And in that scenario, you can’t fully keep track of what’s in the night sky, because your visual orientation changes all the time. The moon goes behind trees, you go behind a hill, there’s a truck—etc. But, we learn to live with this (mostly)—kids don’t like it, at first, but they get used to it: they (we) get to the point of yes, there’s the moon, (wow, the moon!) and I’m in a car again, and even if that means sometimes I can’t see her, I trust she’ll recur eventually.

Until she fucking doesn’t. Until it turns out her visual instability of presence, which we had accommodated ourselves to by constructing a faith in the eternal return of the moon, was a symptom of something that could really happen—we could really lose the moon. And I think Ken Poyner’s poem accesses, in a way many readers can understand partly through childhood sense-memories, the deep distress of trying to multitask your way through such a terrifying realization: which is, of course, also a realization about losing other things we had thought to be eternal, like the tides, the seasons, a functional biosphere; like the oceans’ thermohaline circulation system, and everything that depends on these things, including but not limited to ourselves.

Reckoning Magazine was created to make a space where readers and authors can come together in that moment of realization, and know we are not alone in it: that we can continue together as we work out next steps. So this was definitely a poem we responded to immediately, and we are so glad Ken sent it our way – and yours.

Scott T. Hutchison’s poem, “Snuffing the Night Candles,” has a clear thematic relation to Poyner’s poem through its focus on the night sky, but is wrapped further, deeper, in layers of an alienated, despairing self. I wonder, personally, if there’s a reference to Milton’s Paradise Lost in the lines “I’m anchor-chained on this stark lake/of arrogance and folly.” It could be just a really sad angry way of talking about taking a little boat out on a lake at night, when there’s heavy cloud-cover and the stars and moon can’t be seen: and casting your anchor and drifting for a while—unable to break out of your own heavy thoughts about the future. But poets are tricky, and like allusion, so this recalls, for me, Satan in book One of Paradise Lost, “chained on the burning lake,” a victim of his own overreach. The allusion is strengthened but also complicated and expanded by these lines in the last stanza of Hutchison’s poem:

…Something cheerlessly cast out
has happened here. What America
coughs up to heaven
might be what happened.

There’s been a Fall, like Satan’s—a casting out from a state where joy, cheer, health of many different kinds, can be accessed. And in a fascinating inversion of the Miltonic original (I’m just going to say I’m strongly attached to the idea that there’s a Miltonic original), evil has actually sort of ascended into the sky from the world instead of plummeting from heaven to hell—what is “cast out” and changes all cheer, or joy, is what “America/coughs up”. Anyone working on, or even aware of, global greenhouse gas emission-levels doesn’t have to work too hard to translate that content.

I wouldn’t say Hutchison’s poem leaves us in particularly awesome fettle, as readers. But one of the many things that makes “Snuffing the Night Candles” a poem we were moved to read, and wanted to include in the magazine, is its concluding gesture toward a community that may intercede for the poet in his “perfect night” and “wish for the future,/for [him.]” I think we can. We must wish, and work, for it.

Podcast Episode 10: Move, Mountain, Move

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Subscribe via RSS, Google Podcasts, Android, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or on iTunes!

Welcome back to the Reckoning Press podcast. It’s been ages, but we’re ramping up to a lot of cool new stuff in the coming year and beyond, including lots more podcasts, a fundraiser to increase payrates to 10c/word, $50/page for poetry and pay staff better too, t-shirts, pins, who knows what else. Homebrew recipes. Foraging instructions. Bespoke lectures about culling invasive species. We’re flush with ideas, as we should be, but we’re always looking for more. Drop us a line if you’ve got any?

Reckoning Press is a US-based nonprofit; we flourish under your regard. Please support us on Patreon, consider donating directly, buy a book or an ebook, read our contributors’ beautiful work for free online, and submit! We’re always open to submissions, we’re always excited in particular to read work from Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, disabled, trans, or otherwise marginalized poets, writers and artists.

You can find all this and more on our website at: reckoning.press/support-us. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or by visiting reckoning.press/audio.

Thank you very much for listening.

Hi, everyone. My name is Catherine Rockwood, and today for the Reckoning Magazine Podcast, I’m going to be reading “Move, Mountain, Move” by the author Russell Nichols.

So, I’ll begin with some commentary on the poem and then tell you a little bit more about Russell Nichols and then read you the poem itself.

What affects me when I read this poem is its insistence that we can make something new and better—something external to, and common to, all of us—from our climate grief. And Russell Nichols has used old images, Biblical images, to show us how to imagine this something better. You’ll notice there’s a mention of mustard seeds in the poem, confirming its close literary relationship with the Book of Matthew chapter 17:20, where Jesus says to his disciples “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

A mustard seed is proverbially tiny, and yet the plant that emerges from the seed is tall—so through this simile we understand, both in the Bible and in Nichols’s poem, that if you have even a little bit of germinal matter to start with, you can turn it into something very meaningful and expansive indeed. In the Bible, the germinal matter is faith; in Nichols’s poem, it is grief. We must start there, he argues, but we do not end there. If you’re a Reckoning reader and subscriber, you probably agree.

When Nichols writes, “there is no relief/ without release,” I think of how often the speaker (or singer) of the Psalms mentions weeping, and the necessity of weeping, in times of trouble. As the King James version of Psalm 6:6 has it: “I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.” And this is how we communicate our grief and make it manifest—but in Nichols’s poem, it is also how we build.

Here is a little more about the author.

[Bio below.]

Russell Nichols, “Move, Mountain, Move”

Podcast Episode 8: water-logged roots

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Hi everyone, my name is Catherine Rockwood and today on the Reckoning Magazine Podcast, I’ll be reading “water-logged roots” by Cislyn Smith, which is a poem that’s featured in Reckoning 6.

We want to start a practice on the podcast of talking a little bit about what we loved about the pieces that are in the magazine. And so I’m just going to say a little bit about what particularly draws me to “water-logged roots” as a poem and how I see it applying to climate justice, which is our theme as a publication. When I first read “water-logged roots” when it came through in the submissions, one of the first things I was struck by is how skillfully it uses visual images of a world turned upside-down and then sort of enchants the images so they become part of a knowledge-gathering dialogue. And this is a dialogue with the dryad in the poem, which is just, like, it’s so wonderful! But this dialogue really moves the narrator from the place where she first stands, outside her family home in the aftermath of a hurricane, to a place where she can imagine taking a next step that doesn’t leave her as stuck in where she is and what she’s doing. And it’s not a decision without cost, but it’s an extremely pivotal moment and an adaptive moment. So again, personally speaking I loved the way Cislyn’s poem took an image of climate destruction and began to think about it in very compelling adaptive ways, tying all this to extremely striking imagery.

So here we go. We’ll start with Cislyn’s biography.

(Bio below.)

“water-logged roots” by Cislyn Smith

Podcast Episode 7: Surprise

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Subscribe via RSS, Google Podcasts, Android, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or on iTunes!

Welcome back to the Reckoning Press podcast. It’s been ages, but we’re ramping up to a lot of cool new stuff in the coming year and beyond, including lots more podcasts, a fundraiser to increase payrates to 10c/word, $50/page for poetry and pay staff better too, t-shirts, pins, who knows what else. Homebrew recipes. Foraging instructions. Bespoke lectures about culling invasive species. We’re flush with ideas, as we should be, but we’re always looking for more. Drop us a line if you’ve got any?

Reckoning Press is a US-based nonprofit; we flourish under your regard. Please support us on Patreon, consider donating directly, buy a book or an ebook, read our contributors’ beautiful work for free online, and submit! We’re always open to submissions, we’re always excited in particular to read work from Black, brown, Indigenous, queer, disabled, trans, or otherwise marginalized poets, writers and artists.

You can find all this and more on our website at: reckoning.press/support-us. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or by visiting reckoning.press/audio.

Thank you very much for listening.

Hi, everyone, my name’s Catherine Rockwood, and today for the Reckoning Magazine Podcast, I’m going to be reading you “Surprise” by Tom Barlow, which is featured in Reckoning 6.

From the Embassy of Leaks to the Court of Cracks

We are sorry for the way this will arrive,

damp and damagesome. No doubt

the peculiar constitutions of our nations,

catastrophically susceptible to each other,

account for the long gap in correspondence

though here we find no record of any sort

to suggest a former, well-established channel.

That is, however, the way of our state;

we operate, as you can see, impromptu,

with agents very liable to defect.

Many have lived for a long time among you,

on a favorite shirt or as a way of thought

that landed on you suddenly and stayed.

 

Staying, as we hear, is something rare

within your fissured borders. Much tips out,

much topples. Much is built and clutches up

from treble-bound foundations, tenoned, splitting.

In your case, pride defers, takes second place

to the almighty fall. And how you love it!

The moment brickwork tears like rotten curtains;

the sound of earth exhaling after thunder

as brightness rushes back over downed walls.

For generations we’ve exploited this,

have learned both how to enter and to cling

to what you’re always opening. We stuck

and slurred your symmetries. It was enough.

 

But recent changes, so oppressive for

both you and us, have forced this Embassy

to use newfangledness. To be overt.

We’ll spell it in black mold, with feeling: PLEASE,

please tell us what would tempt you. Gasoline?

Redcurrant jam? A shattered whisky fifth,

muddled with builder’s earth? Take them. Take these.

Make it official; all we have, we’ll share.

Unerring knowledge of the passage through

is given us, which we will give to you

for love, and just one fractured future sight

of years to come. Friends, what we’re saying is,

please tell us everything we shouldn’t know.