Archive for July 4, 2018

Review: So Long the Sky by Mary Kovaleski Byrnes


Mary Kovaleski Byrnes, So Long the Sky, Platypus Press, 2018. ISBN: 978-1-9997736-7-0. £9.00 (including shipping)


While you wait for the whistle, place a penny

on the track. Count the cars

when they blur by, the coal as it flies

out like popcorn. Scramble faster

than the other children—a skirtful can heat

even the flimsiest structure, will make you dream

of islands. From the air over Boston, you can almost touch them.

On each descent, I number their backs,

even the rocks jutting high and lonely,

wishing again for an era of shipwrecks.

For the fogged-out survivors, those rocks

would have been land enough for a hard-scrabble home.

My grandmother made her own rock, her own decades

of lost ships. Slept seven siblings under coats in one bed,

tells me how to collect coal

from a moving train, how to replace its dust…

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Wednesday Reflections/Endurance

Reflections/poem biography for Endurance

“Stubborn roots draw up strength
from the land’s glacial inheritance.”

A matter of perspective Endurance smaller

As an adult, my gardens have never been landscaped lawns, weeded flowerbeds and neat paths. Mostly, they have been patches of land and grass where nature is allowed to do nature’s thing so long as it doesn’t impinge on foundations or safety.

When we lived in Lichfield, fox cubs used to visit. In our current Droitwich home, birds sing, grey squirrels play and blackberries thrive. We also had a one-metre tall dandelion.

I suspect this dandelion was forced to grow so high in order to get enough light for growth. As such, it became the inspiration for this poem about family heritage and nature set alongside man, both enduring.
The dandelion is now gone. The poem survived, but only after drastic pruning. I’m particularly indebted on this front to my masters portfolio tutor, Jean Sprackland, and to her suggestion that I take Ted Hughes’ ‘Thistles’ as an exemplar in expanding my initial inspiration.

Electric Questions - lit version smallerDiscussion Point

If you hadn’t just read about ‘Thistles’ as inspiration, could you have guessed this from the poem? How/why?

Inspiration/Writing Prompt

Choose a plant from your garden/a nearby natural area. Start by simply observing and noting down what you see. Then research about it. How does the world look from the plant’s height/perspective? If it were a person, what kind of person? What human qualities might it embody/evoke? Imagine this plant now in an unexpected setting. How did it get there and why? What would a passer-by do or think if they suddenly stumbled upon it?

plentyfish cover (1)At poetry readings, I often enjoy hearing about the background to a particular poem. ‘Wednesday Reflections/Sometimes I smile’ is my attempt to share the inspiration, frustrations, pain, philosophies and thoughts that lie behind my poetry collection ‘plenty-fish’. Each Wednesday, this blog will contain one of these ‘poem biographies’, as well as points for potential reader discussion and also writers’ prompts. My collection ‘plenty-fish’ may be bought from Nine Arches Press, here, or my website, here. More Wednesday Reflections on other poems in the collection can also be found here.

July 4, 2018






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