Poetry from the Western States

Photograph by Mary O’Brien


The Transformative Capacity: Introducing Kathleen Winter

It is my pleasure to introduce to Persimmon Tree readers the Guest Poetry Editor for the West Coast issue, poet and editor Kathleen Winter. Holding JD, MA, and MFA degrees, Kathleen left a busy law practice fourteen years ago to pursue her dream of becoming a poet. What came next was as impressive as it was unpredictable, for in the years since she decided to reinvent herself (in lieu of a midlife crisis!), Kathleen has produced a steady stream of award-winning poetry. Her first collection, Nostalgia for the Criminal Past (2012) won the Antivenom Poetry Prize and the Texas Institute of Letters 2013 Bob Bush Award for a First Book of Poems. Her second collection, the strikingly titled I will not kick my friends (2018), won the Elixir Book Prize. Her third book, Transformer (2020), received the judge’s prize for The Word Works Hilary Tham Collection imprint and was a finalist for the 2021 Northern California Book Award. Individual poems have appeared regularly in some of the best journals in the country, such as Agni, Tin House, The New Republic, and The Yale Review. Among her many honors are residency fellowships from the James Merrill Foundation and the Dora Maar House Foundation, a 2015 Dobie Paisano Fellowship from the Texas Institute of Letters, two Cill Rialaig Project Fellowships, a Sewanee Writers’ Conference Walter E. Dakin Fellowship, and the Poetry Society of America’s Emily Dickinson Award. She teaches creative writing and literature courses at Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College in northern California.


With such an incisive and inquisitive nature, Kathleen investigates a wide range of fields of inquiry in her poetry: the psychodynamics of trauma; the principles and paradoxes of math and logic; and of late, recent scientific discoveries theorizing the role that women played in creating the cave paintings in central France. Her poetry is forthright, exploratory, striking a delicate balance between direct and open-ended statements. She analyzes uncomfortable subjects such as abuse and violence, and dissects the impulse to refuse to forgive.  Her work offers no ready answers, no simplification or comfortingly smooth anecdotes of recovery, only hard-won conclusions.  As poet Maggie Smith writes of Transformer

The poems are concerned with memory and trauma, violence and vulnerability, the domestic and the wild. “I want all these lambs/to escape being mutton,” the poet writes, and yet we know what will happen to so many lambs, so many sisters and daughters, so many mothers and children. How do we live with our fear —“a dense & solid thing/she knows must fit inside her brain/despite its size”? How do we see what we see, know what we know, feel what we feel, and live? The world of Transformer is one where survival requires transformation [.]


That capacity for transformation includes the emotional ability to transform the simple description of landscape in a pastoral poem into a “complex meditation on loss,” as Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Forrest Gander has observed.

Kathleen’s poetry is fresh and probing, far-ranging in subject, and bristling with wit, as we see in the two poems of her own included in this thought-provoking West Coast feature. I invite you to check out more of Kathleen’s poetry online, or perhaps to buy her most recent collection. I guarantee you an electrifying read. But for now, please sit back and enjoy the wonderful poetry she has chosen to feature in this gorgeous summer issue of our beloved Persimmon Tree.



Introduction to the Poets of the Western States

Sometimes it is easier to put a finger on what you were looking for if you examine what you found. The selection of fourteen poems for the 2022 Summer Western Poets section was joyful, but it was also difficult, because of the profusion of strong submissions. To my surprise, reading hundreds of poems giving a glimpse into the minds of so many strangers made me feel hopeful. A great number of these poets sound like women I want to meet, to get to know. Looking back at the selections, I see that the feature includes poems that manage to blend subtlety and accessibility as they consider serious matters, foremost among them loss, grief, and the challenge to exceed limitations imposed on us by nature or by other people.  

From experience comes sorrow and from sorrow comes meaning, but poetry needs more than meaning; it requires some kind of beauty. For me that beauty often arrives through sound. What kinds of sound qualities add to the appeal of these poems? The music of individual words, their combinations in rhythm, meter, rhyme; the syncopations and force of punctuation; the potent silences of white space. Poetic sound can come via the human voice, often represented by a first-person speaker, as in most of the work in this section. But at least half of these poems also include quoted language from someone other than the speaker of the poem. I think that’s no coincidence. Including the speech—and thus thought—of more than one person can add dimension, complexity, and liveliness to a poem. In the poems of these West Coast poets I hear the careful and beautiful recreation of thought itself, as the poet dramatizes the mind going about its mysterious business. 

Additionally, in this varied assemblage of work we find skill, patience, and striving—especially with diction, an ambition to rely on the very word that will serve best. The selected poems are neither overblown nor side-tracked by ego, so the gravity of their concerns carries through their tone and precision. Encountering these poets through their work, I was moved by an authenticity and clarity in their perceptions, the depth and delicacy of their knowledge of human and natural worlds, and a tenacity in their engagement with life.  





four minutes

after the Amber Alert on 1/13/18 8:07 am PST on Maui


re-read the text
re-read the text
re-read the text

a banner unwinds across the bottom of the TV

& a mechanical voice says          if outside          take shelter
if inside          take shelter away from windows          
if in a car          pull over 

                                                                                                    what          what          what       

no          I think          no          not
not all this beauty

no sirens          no sound but birdcalls & wind

                                                                                                    my only prayer
                                                                                                    I don’t know why

watching the sky          for one dark speck
blooming in mass as it draws closer

                                                                                                    the sky          the sky  

SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER                                     

how do you          shelter 
anywhere          in these islands
people posting about waiting in the lava tubes

                                                                                                    how do you          shelter          anywhere 

there is no depth
beyond the swallowed parachute       
rip-cord-inflating my chest           

                                                                                                    everything an instant moment 
                                                                                                    wide as the sky

& full of what I saw at dawn          a shooting star 
streaking through planets slung low like lanterns
about to be put out in the sea

the shy sun          stroking the sand pink
& the dark speck of a fluke near Molokini          

                                                                                                    what is the blast radius          the radiation                                                                                                     radius          will there be a tsunami         

a black blade cutting the waves         
then          breaching immensity



My Father Too Often

He led them, a pack of feral
dogs, ribs showing. They slobber,
gut growl, and bark. Fur: red,
black, white, brown, matted 
on their backs. Two chewed through 
the screen door and the screen wire
twisted like a ripped sieve. My hair
roiled with snakes. 
                I turned my back.

Then he was under the table. Squint-eyed
he sobbed; fingers twitched. He was 
a deer fly rapt on a dog’s haunch.
He was my father wrapped in sticky
threads, caught. I slashed the web 
with a blade, cut him out with a paring knife 
fallen from the oak table. Cut him, 
and slag dripped with steam 
from his arm. Through floorboards 
poppies sprang up at his feet and crimson 
petals sprouted in my snake hair. My knife 
became my tongue. 
                My father smiled.

See, he said. See, you are 
my daughter. Carry me, he said.

He stood on a chair, locked his legs
around my waist, dead wood. His arms
around my neck, prehistoric vines 
thick and leaf-stripped. Carry me to
the mirror, he said.
                I did. 
I saw bark beetles, 
crawling up his side, a weasel along his leg;
its tail tip poked a rib. My shoulders
bulked out at each lat and bicep. Put me
down by the door, his breath on my ear. 
I did not know I could bear him. I 
did not know I could bear him away.  
Goodbye, he said. Do something
with your hair.
                I turned my back.




The hand hovers over the pen, draws back, 
then quickly, before she can think, picks it up. 
Now the pen hovers over the paper, hesitant, 
as if words once written couldn’t be crossed out. 
Just one word. Maybe that’s all she has. 
Or maybe that first stroke of ink will 
unleash armies of letters lined up to storm 
the gates of a reluctant imagination. 
Maybe a flood of images and metaphors 
will sweep over the flattened gates and into the courtyard, 
swords raised, taking no prisoners. 
Maybe there will be nothing, and she will write 
one word—tentative—just once, 
and stare at the paper again, thinking 
“this is like all my plans, made with the best intentions 
but too easily derailed, set aside out of fear
or made subject to the desires and whims of others. 
And if so much is tentative, then why not 
hesitate to commit, why not 
wait too long and miss the chance? 
Why not doubt, 
since doubts so often prove truer than plans, 
since doubt is more solid, less tentative than hope? 
Why not stop asking why not,
since not is such a close cousin to tentative, 
as negation is to hesitation, that tepid condition, 
neither hot nor cold, and because you are lukewarm, 
someone said, I will spew you out of my mouth. 
Tepid is cooler than lukewarm because, 
tentative, it hesitated longer. 
Let us make plans, then, 
just for tonight, or tomorrow, or the weekend, 
and let us try not to be tentative, but rather 
arm ourselves with pens or swords 
to write in ink or blood 
at least one word that will not be crossed out.



Photograph by Donnarae Aiello



Smelling the Water

You and I are splintered beings, my love,
branches sheared 
and branches green and reaching.  
The woodchipper pings, clangs, and swishes—
soft boughs go quieter than thick limbs—
and ceases with chips tumbling, like 
a cataract over the precipice. Tumbling 
like seven-year-old Roger over Niagara Falls 
in 1960. Tossed high as a house through rapids, 
he says. He still smells the water.  
You and I churn 
down, from up, from down. 
Gasp for air.
Susie and Joe 
breathed 23 flower fragrances 
in their yard this morning. Cedar chips 
mulch their bed.  
Is love the same as humus?  
to organic matter
that cannot be broken down further. 
Holding its weight in water.  



Springtime through the Grief Door

The bouquet—now straw, a fistful
of florets on a thin stalk, each sepal
a skeleton of capillaries 
and veins flaked with muck.  
The hydrangea—stick figures, 
dead-headed, above the bed 
of forget-me-nots. My lips, wind-scraped.
What can Spring grow from buds ripped off, tossed
in the crumpled bag in my chest?  
Leaves cradling larger leaves, shiny 
smooth with barely ruffled edges, deep
purple capillaries drawing water.
We called this the wedding hydrangea.
Now christened Hydrangea metamorphose.  




A child, breath fogging morning window, backyard 
frozen hard and slick. Jays and ravens skitter, pick
at gritty snow still slumped against the fence. Tall 
winter-bare forsythia, brittle-black in February’s fist, 
hides the seldom-used back gate. Invasive
her mother’s word. They’ll put down roots, send up 
new branches, take over if we let them, their energy 
a threat. Her father would have understood 
their arching thrust. Let’s find Andromeda, he’d say, 
long past bedtime, eye to his telescope. Her father—
in the ground almost a year. His soul’s been saved
says Reverend Bill. Her mother wars 
with weeds. The garden stands at stiff salute    
and faces front. Disorderly forsythia resists, leaves 
clinging past first frost. It blooms too soon, long 
wild arms semaphoring secrets past her ears. 
That ugly shrub, her mother says. We’ll let it stay 
for now, for privacy. Don’t let it spread
It spread and sprawled all summer, new growth 
knifing through, becoming wiry limbs the child 
can gather close, weave tight. A room, dim earth-
smelling space to bring the unfledged birds, 
the squirrels and chipmunks rescued from the dog—  
when rescue failed, to bury them. Her father.
In the ground. Soul saved in a bank called heaven, 
even though, she knows, he’d rather be a star. 
Breath fogging morning window, the child blinks, then 
clears the chilly pane. Yesterday’s bone-black branches 
touched now by early sun. Thready galaxies. Promise. 
Tomorrow’s yellow bloom.



Photograph by Mary O’Brien



I Met a Tiger Once

Tigers can spring ten yards from 
a standstill when they’re young in the wild.
What was I doing there? I don’t recall, 
except the keeper and the tiger were 
near the upstate mountain place I pay 
taxes on, and someone sent me
to the tiger fella, mangy old hippy. Rescued
the beast he said, must be a dozen years now.
I don’t think the cage inside the barn was 
ten yards square. Careful, lady. Careful. 
An adult tiger is a long animal. Even a fat, old 
tiger in pain. From red shadows at the back 
of the barn, waves of motion, orange and black, 
flowed the tiger’s length as he crossed the barn
up to the gate. Just don’t get too close. 
What would the tiger do? Teach me a lesson?
As if I could vault from my standstill 
to my rails, power them open, hurtle past 
my pain and age. I met a tiger once. 
In a cage in a barn upstate. 
He was one who should have raged.



In this version, I laughed because

I was nervous landing in a so-called third world country, 2010. 
On a billboard outside Jomo Kenyatta Airport, a black & white 
sign cautioned Do you have post-election violence insurance? 
My cab driver tried to reassure me: no worries, madam but
I was not reassured. I had read about so-called elections 
in African nations astride the Great Rift Valley. The perfect 
name, don’t you think? Aren’t we all rift and torn apart? If 
Kenya couldn’t reconcile the Kikuyu with the Kisii, how could 
I fathom the Radisson Nairobi giving air play to God Rest Ye 

Merry Gentlemen? That a concierge—schooled by Advent 
missionaries—would insist: this is Kenyan Christmas music! 
My fellow citizens, don’t be vain. Didn’t Carly Simon warn
we would always think every song is about us? Don’t think 
such a rift isn’t happening in this U.S. of Agony. I still don’t 
have my post-election violence insurance and now I wonder: 
when won’t it be the 6th of January? When will any god rest we?



after times

vaxxed has two X’s
sounds slightly    obscene 
maskless has three S’s
hisses    like a serpent
what was once yearned for— 
          now suspect
what if I’m    too baffled 
to cut a social swath
can’t navigate the maze 
from there      to here
not able to use my wits      gather up 
guests      cook for more than two

the world hovers      on the edge
of normal      but I can’t make that      leap



Photograph by Donnarae Aiello




What would it take for you to imagine
a woman’s life so different from your own
the woman who sells everything she owns
to send her son away from an army
a woman’s life so different from your own
living on the edge in a far-off country
to send her son away from an army
that would train him to do unspeakable things
living on the edge in a far-off country
(knowing that she will never see him again)
that would train him to do unspeakable things
praying for his safety and his life
knowing that she will never see him again
fearing the journey he will be making
praying for his safety and his life
pleading with her god to watch over him
fearing the journey that he will be making
the woman who sells everything she owns
pleading with her god to watch over him
What would it take for you to imagine?



After Reading the Coroner’s Report

                                                  For Vee

I wanted to be the wind
swooping underneath the Harbor
Freeway and feeling its way
to W. 118th Place
that warm June morning,
the pandemic full steam ahead.
I wanted to find her first,
to approach her as she lay prone
on the earth, head pointed south, 
feet pointed north—death’s cardinal
directions—dressed only in her skirt,
elbows bent, hands under her torso,
a last prayer. I wanted to caress
her body one more time, move
along her legs, lightly touch
the bruises above her knees,
left hip, thighs, the bluing
blossoms on her abdomen and breasts.
I wanted to bless.
I wanted to be the wind
tracing the ligature furrow
splitting her neck, kiss
the contusions on her cheeks,
jaw, and nose. I wanted to close
her lids over the dulled brown
velvet of her eyes so 
she was simply sleeping.
I wanted to kick
up dust, I wanted to
whirlwind, to lift her up,
swirl her away at the speed
of light, crash through sound,
defy force and time, clock back
the hours and days, respool
the bobbin so she never
met the man in the 7th Street                               
terminal who jacked her
up on meth then passed her on               
to the others, so that she never
stepped off the bus, never stepped
on, never purchased the ticket
from Arcata to Twin Falls, or
placed the call, never left.




My breathing was neither bizarre nor diminished—Even so, 
my death was a mourning death, yet my house stayed light 
and the neighbor’s dachshund stopped yapping for three days.
My desire to steal her [and needing to plot that whole rigmarole] 
ceased, freeing space in my head and cluttering up my kitchen. 
Yes, I was ambulatory after death and the kitchen could still sing jazz 
when Julian Lage showed up to play guitar—one song only: I’ll Be Seeing You. 
It made things nicer amid the disaster of fire. He played many hours, 
then stopped to wash my dishes that would change to words in his hands, 
in his Abraham Lincoln hands, a stack of imperatives sudsing and rinsing
into an amazement of profanity, he will leave drip drying,
while his pecan brown eyes shift hues with such sincerity—
Yet, this did not help focus my loneliness, 
until Julian assumed it was no longer his vocation to clean up 
the wonderment of another’s over-active life. Somehow, 
he stayed long enough to get me back to bed, I could see 
how clean he’d made my paisley sheets with their verifiable patterns, 
the minor suggestion of profusely fanciful teardrops—
tear shapes inspired by tears but not necessarily from evil; 
and with so many of them, is it possible they stretch over the road 
to the barn still smoldering in its ashes? True, vermin died in my burning barn. 
I knew the farmer who fought in the Battle of the Bulge that did this. 
I had him arrested at 91, then told the surviving mice and fence lizards to stay 
sharp, and to keep planting their little feet in two worlds at once. 
You do not harp at vermin about good and evil and what bail means. 
You do not bother them with the broad sweep of all the ways to be dead. 
I went on like this with them for a decade and did not speak of free choice 
as being any part of living under floor boards, under a hay room,
under a burning barn—Hawks are everywhere. The dead self gets it. 
Dead selves are not metaphysicians or pieces of cheap jewelry 
looking to enhance a sense of fantasy.



Photograph by Mary O’Brien



To the Old Who Think They Want to Die 

— after Gwendolyn Brooks
No! Don’t unscrew the pill bottles. Stop right now!
Look—the sky is an unclouded blue above the lake.
There’s a ruby-throat sampling the hosta. Whisky and 
water will not help you swallow. At sunset, when you 
think again about ending it all, a beaver will swim across 
in front of you, as if he is returning from Toad Hall to 
his own bank lodge. Are those capsules in your hand 
two-toned blue? That’s not your color, Sweetheart. 
Instead put on your purple satin dress and tap shoes. 
Then join your mirror-image and dance with her. 
Hmm. . . are you still whining you’re no longer strong 
enough to chin yourself on the crossbar? Are you,
instead, considering rope? If so, make sure it’s one for 
jumping. You can’t? Then use it for a clothesline and 
let all your lace unmentionables sway erotically 
in the midday sun.
                                  Being dead is the end of the end. 
How silly when your motto for being alive has always 
been Carpe Diem. Do you want all your little ones to wail 
tomorrow if their GeeGee is gone? And you will miss
autumn’s blaze, cool days when deer and rabbits turn
gray-white. Then the first snowflake, after that ice houses 
on the frozen lake. Okay, so you don’t ice-fish any
more. But you can make a bonfire on the beach, offer 
the littles New Year’s s’mores. 
                                  So, ditch those poison pills. 
Charon is not yet waiting to ferry you across the Styx. 
Time is still yours. Despite all, life is, too—embrace it!



Learning Before We Hatch 

We know now that bird
embryos know, still in their shells,
what bird breed hovers close or
not so close, which song is us,
which them, and that their thin
or thick shells let in sound
that teaches. On our deck a finch
with a red crown pecks at the rail,
bobbing head, hopping feet,
remembering that cramped dark
space that taught him all he knows.
But there’s more to say. About us.
In the womb we learned fear.
For me, no bigger than a green pea,
a new war. And sounds
of Chopin from a piano in the night.
The scrape of spoon on bowl 
in cookie-making, whirr of a sewing
machine, pedals pumping, up, down, up.
Slow trains in the gulch steaming on the tracks.
When I was smaller than a walnut,
more fear. Not enough space or money.
Too young. Not ready. A baby is as fragile
as a fresh souffle. But the doctor
refused to carve me out. You’ll 
be fine, he said. And so I lived
and live. Then children. Together
we eat shrimp curry and watch Kung Fu.
All I need to know I knew and know.
The little finch flies soundlessly into the night.



Saint of the Innocent, Saint of the Guilty

Dogsbodies that we are, yet the last sunlight sifts down 
for free, illuminates Saint Raymond’s Island as though from inside—
fleshsoil between mixed greens, above a base where the Atlantic attaches. 
Wind scratches lines toward the island. 
Sheep woke me before I stopped dreaming; 
their indignities start early. Dogs worry sheep,
or so they tell me. Almost dark now but 
still they shriek, high as gulls.
This is the time of evening to mention—
as writers of college themes always are mentioning—
a disastrous surprise:  
I have a son I’ve never met who scares 
wild ponies into trailers for the rich, 
I hoard my shadow lover in a toolshed.
I’m a fatal driver who can never forget. 
My father’s long disease makes me afraid of a bruise.
You too are guilty, or scared of something harmless. 
You too are scared, guilty of something harmless.
But we’ll at least outlive the lambs, two hundred 
trimming steep fields full of stones and graves 
of infants buried out beyond the churchyard. 
They died before they could be christened. Consider 
this miracle: none of them ever did anything wrong.



By Diverse Means We Arrive at the Same End

To learn my teeth are warped was no expert discovery:
all it took was pain.
Arrived at this hotel with his fellow travelers lounging 
on the same long porch attached to each room, 
Otis is pained past human understanding.
I tell the hound he has to share the world:
that goes over like a lead frisbee. 
                                                                            He howls:             
                         How can I relax with all these strange people–
                                               is this what you call vacation?
Out of my brain into yours, my words schlep
their suitcases of sound and information.
In the tartar of our teeth, the information saved
for 50,000 years: what we ate, how we self-medicated
(gnawing poplar bark for toothache, sucking seaweed).
Pain comes on in layers, like furniture varnish.
A few coats are enough—one too many ruins the secretary.
When I was a secretary I could pack more words faster in
my mouth than a boss has questions, a broker has options. 
Now I have options, but only a few: 
red or blue, sink or swim, break or bend or shift
or slink away . . . . 
These plantigrades, these cave bears, lived in the Belgian cave of Spy
and after them Neandertals, whose thoughts travel to us via
scratch marks on beads, carvings on antlers, ochre stains,
by the particular positions in which they laid their dead—
                              engraving their pain into what we (in our ignorance)
                        consider their greatest invention: the practice of burial.
We bury our families, and the animals we cherish almost as though
they’re human. Can it be wrong to love a dog so much it spurs this
keen bite of foreboding?


Photograph by Donnarae Aiello



Kathleen Winter, guest judge for the summer 2022 Persimmon Tree Western States poetry competition, is the author of three award-winning poetry collections, including Transformer (The Word Works), and a finalist for the 2021 Northern California Book Awards. Her second book, I will not kick my friends, won the Elixir Prize, and Nostalgia for the Criminal Past won the Antivenom Prize. Her chapbook Cats Tongue was published in 2022 by Texas Review Press. Winter’ s poems and flash fictions have appeared in The New Statesman, The New Republic, Poetry London, Michigan Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, and Five Points. She was granted fellowships at the Dora Maar House, Cill Rialaig, Sewanee Writers’ Conference,  James Merrill House, and Vermont Studio Center. Her awards include the Poetry Society of America The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award and the Rochelle Ratner Memorial Prize. She lives and teaches in Sonoma County, California.

Persimmon Tree Poetry Editor Cynthia Hogue’s most recent collections are Revenance, listed as one of the 2014 “Standout” books by the Academy of American Poets, and In June the Labyrinth (2017).  Her tenth collection, instead, it is dark, will be out from Red Hen Press in 2023. Her third book-length translation (with Sylvain Gallais) is Nicole Brossard’s Distantly (Omnidawn 2022). Hogue’s Covid chapbook is entitled Contain (Tram Editions 2022). Among her honors are a Fulbright Fellowship to Iceland, two NEA Fellowships, and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets (2013). She lives in Tucson.  

Western States Poets

Kathleen Joy Anderson is a retired elementary school librarian who has also been a real estate secretary, a preschool director, a freelance book indexer, and a children’s ministry director. She has lived in North Dakota, Oregon, and Iran, and now lives in Portland, Oregon with her pandemic rescue dog, a Shih-Tzu named Ruthie (after Ruth Bader Ginsburg). A volunteer support person for people with anxiety disorders, Kathleen relieves her own anxieties through the practice of Qi Gong, tai chi, spending time with her twin grandsons, walking with Ruthie, and writing poetry. 

Judy Clarence, a retired academic librarian, lives with her daughter, grandchildren, three cats, and two dogs in the Sierra, California foothills after many years in Berkeley.  She plays violin (baroque and modern) in several orchestras and chamber groups, sings in two classical choruses, and has written poetry since early childhood. After a long hiatus, her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Amarillo Bay, Shot Glass Journal, Dead Skunk, Quill & Parchment, and Allegro, among others.  

Rebecca Foust’s seventh book, ONLY, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in Fall 2022. Recognitions include the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the CP Cavafy and James Hearst poetry prizes, a 2017-19 Marin Poet Laureateship, and fellowships from The Frost Place, Hedgebrook, MacDowell, and Sewanee. Recent poems are in The Cincinnati Review, The Hudson Review, Narrative, Ploughshares, POETRY, and elsewhere. 

Jodi Hottel’s most recent chapbook is Out of the Ashes from Pandemonium Press. Her previous chapbooks are Voyeur from WordTech Press in 2017, and Heart Mountain, winner of the 2012 Blue Light Press Poetry Prize. Jodi’s been published in Nimrod International, Spillway, Ekphrasis, and anthologies from the University of Iowa Press, Tebot Bach, and the Marin Poetry Center. She has spent the pandemic sheltering in place in Sonoma County, California. 

Barbara Johnstone’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Crosswinds, Diagram, Raven Chronicles, New York Quarterly, Peregrine, and other publications.  She is an Amherst Writers & Artists Affiliate and uses their method to facilitate writing groups.  She spent her time as a kid in New Mexico and has lived in the Pacific Northwest among the tall conifers most of her adult life.  After working as a psychotherapist for 43 years, she began to focus on her creative writing.  

Moira Magneson calls the Sierra foothills home and has taught English for many years at Sacramento City College. Prior to teaching, she worked as a river guide throughout the west. A member of Red Fox Underground, a local poetry collective, she has authored the chapbook He Drank Because. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including most recently Plainsongs, Canary, and California Fire and Water—a Climate Crisis Anthology.  

Sara McAulay is the author of three novels and numerous works of short fiction (published in Black Warrior Review, California Quarterly, Third Coast, and ZYZZYVA, among others). She received NEA and NJ State Arts Council fellowships in prose. She recently turned to poetry and flash, work published or forthcoming in Bending Genres, The Dewdrop, Hole in the Head Review, Rise Up Review, Stone Poetry Journal, and Synkroniciti, among others. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with the world’s smartest Australian Shepherd dog. 

Melanie Perish believes reading makes you beautiful. Her poems have appeared in Sinister Wisdom, West Trestle Review, The Meadow, Calyx, and other small press publications. Her poems were featured on the Nevada Humanities Heart to Heart website. Passions & Gratitudes (Black Rock Press, 2011) and The Fishing Poems (Chapbook, Meridian Press, 2017) are current collections. Foreign Voices, Native Tongues (Single Wing Press/Blurb, 2021) is her newest book. Her poems owe a major debt to other poets with whom she exchanges work and critiques. 

A child of the Hudson Highlands, Alice Campbell Romano lived 13 years in Rome, script-doctoring Italian movie scripts. She married a dashing, movie-business Italian. They moved to Los Angeles, raised loving children, built stuff.  Alice’s poems appear in print, online, anthologized. Aside from adoration of grandchildren, the best Alice feels is when wrestling a line of poetry—except when she listens to fellow poets read their work. What a company of angels, and how necessary. 

Joan Stepp Smith is a native San Franciscan. She has degrees in English and Art History from the University of California at Berkeley and London’s Sir John Cass School of Art and Design.  She is a Pushcart nominee and author of In a Pasture with Palominos and Unaccounted Mischiefs—due out next year.  Lover of horses and devotee of natural horsemanship, she provides respite care to retired performance horses at her ranch in Northern California. 

Victoria Stefani lives, writes, paints, and gardens in the desert at the edge of Tucson, Arizona. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in a variety of journals: the North American Review, the Poeming Pigeon, Ekphrastic Review, and elsewhere. For many years she taught literature and writing, most recently for more than two decades at the University of Arizona. 

Susan Terris is a freelance editor and the author of seven books of poetry, 17 chapbooks, three artist's books, and two plays.  Journals include The Southern Review, Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Bay, and Ploughshares. Poems of hers have appeared in Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry. Her newest book is Dream Fragments, which won the Swan Scythe Press Award. Ms. Terris is editor emerita of Spillway Magazine and a poetry editor at Pedestal.

Lynne Thompson is the 2021-22 Poet Laureate for the City of Los Angeles. She is the author of Start with a Small Guitar and Beg No Pardon, winner of the Perugia Book Award and the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award. Her collection Fretwork, published in 2019, won the Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in The Common, The MacGuffin, Copper Nickel, Pleiades, and the 2020 Best American Poetry, among others.


The photographs illustrating this issue’s poetry from the western states are by two Utah photographers. Both are members of the Castle Valley Photo Group. Castle Valley photographers use the beauty of the land in which we live to express their creative and imaginative selves. Each month the group is challenged to use a new photographic technique or style.

Donnarae Aiello:
Visited Taos as a child. 
Worked in Animation since a teenager. 
Became a Physical Therapist at 40. 
Living the Western dream, full-time at 60.

Mary O’Brien, a botanist, has worked 40 years with conservation organizations to defend public lands. She currently leads Project Eleven Hundred to end permitting of honey bee apiaries on national forests and BLM lands in order to protect native bees.

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