Sarah Webb's Poetry

My poetry collection, Black, from Virtual Artists Collective was published in 2013.  It can be ordered through this website (best for me—Paypal) or at independent bookstores (the site can direct you to these), Powell's, or Amazon.

It is in stock in Austin, TX at BookWoman and Malvern Books. In Oklahoma City it is carried by Full Circle Bookstore.

The best for me is if you will order from this website or buy at a reading.

The poems in Black come in large or small ways from the peoples of all the major religions and shamanism. Poems call on the traditions of every continent as well as from ancients living before times in memory. I made up modern myths too and told stories from science and everyday life.

My aim in all of it was to find the root beneath the hints and stories. What is it that we all share, that we sense beneath the surface?

Monday, November 13, 2017

To Shubh's "Beeji" A Response

Often poets feel their words go into the world and did they reach anyone at all?  We don't have the markers of big book sales and audiences. But that doesn't mean we don't touch people. It's just that often we don't know that it happened. 

So I thought I'd write sometimes about poetry that reached my heart.  Maybe I'd write in response (or already had written in response, as in this case).  Or maybe write what I saw in it.  Not so much for the big names as for poets that might get missed.  A poetic conversation among friends.

So-- a conversation with Shush Schiesser's Sacred River

To Shubh's “Beeji”
“Cover my face with her comforter”

When my father died
I took his pillow for my own.
He could not hold me, but his pillow did.
I turned my face to the rich smell of him.

to Shubh Bala Schiesser, Sacred River: Poems from India, Austin: Sociosights Press, 2016
originally in Carcinoginic Poetry from Virgogray Press

More from "Beeji":

Dusty carpet and lusterless bedcover--
How quickly color flees
When someone in the house dies.
. . . 

I find a black-and-white photograph
Now turned brown, that re-affirms her presence
In this world; her gaze is fixed on me."

Thoughts on Sacred River

Sacred River has the vividness of child memory.  In the poems I loved that her father told her to pay attention to even small things and that she did. She says, "Out of a plain wood log/ He chiseled me into a caring person."  

Many of these poems are elegies and appreciations--of Shubh's father and mother, of her father's mother, of a way of life gone.  They have a loving appreciation of detail ("... his toes curl like tiny eels/ I hold his velvet-soft feet') and capture the emotional resonance of moments:
How those swings
Tied on low branches quivered
In the courtyard
We sang monsoon songs
While henna ran from our hands

Others are a critique, particularly of the treatment of women in India, a critique that begins at the child level:
While my brother
Climbed the tree in the silence
Of a golden sky
I returned home holding the spindle
"Why girls could not fly kites?"

It expands to the situation of the married woman in "Self-Portrait" (She was not a goddess upon a throne/But a woman who lived in thrall), and forced marriage where she will be "the property/of a stranger" and "wear a necklace of name-calling."

and the aging woman "Indian Widow" 
She will eat once a day--bland static food
To suppress and tame her appetites,
Will bathe repeatedly to remain pure enough
To worship the gods ...

In "Hindu Woman" Shubh charts the progress of women from the grandmother who would wash her husband's feet and "he joked she should drink that water," through the educated mother who still followed ten feet behind her husband on the street, even in an era of more equal opportunities, to the narrator's time when she left the painful marriage and defied the relatives who asked, "What will people say?" 

The injustice and blindness that leads to a girl child whose "mouth is filled with sand" is counterposed to a sacred tradition that sees the birth of a female as a blessing, one in which women
... tie sacred threads
On Peepul branches, dance
Around the tree and sing
Praise for sun, moon, stars.

The sacred current of a positive tradition hidden and reclaimable within a patriarchal one, the joyful memories of childhood and family, these counterbalance the bitterness of the path laid out for women in the Indian culture.  We see why Shubh had to become "a gypsy/Wandering from nation to nation") but we also see why she loved her family and culture.  We participate in that love as we read her poems. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fall, 2017, Illya's Honey

Just read through this Fall's posting of Illya's Honey. Lots of great poetry,some from friends like Carol Hamilton, who has two lovely formal poems.

I was entranced with Kate Hart's "See How Things Work Out For Themselves?" and Donald Fisher's "Canadian Geese Against a Blue October Sky" and "The House Painter." They have that strange dislocation of reality that takes you some place that is and can't be. Like Fisher's house painter who goes so slowly he finally freezes mid stroke and becomes a lawn statue that inspires the neighborhood.

And Larry Thomas's "Red Maple With Ravens" is rich and strange too, in a different way, a maple who is a grieving woman who has "has stared death down/and made of her gown/a roosting place for ravens."

Thanks to Ann Howell's, who included my "The Ones They Lost" in the issue.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I See Her Now

A poem that will be in Red Riding Hood's Sister.

"I See Her Now" was published in Switchgrass Review Vol 2, 2016 (Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation and Texas A&M Corpus Christi).

In February 2018 it will come out in Janet Kuypers' cc&d magazine. It was recently posted online in her Scars TV: 

I See Her Now

I see her now in a dark house,
dressing without the light so she won't disturb him
so she can feel her hands on the jeans 
and the soft cotton of the tee shirt
as if she were blind.

I see her bathing in the tub 
where she has painted a mermaid with flowing hair.
Her own hair floats around her in shampoo and froth
but she opens her eyes to the sting of soap
afraid he will enter and push her under.

She will not leave.
Every day she looks at the windows
if I had to I could leap through
I must remember to keep my arms over my face

The basement has no exit but the stairs.
He found her there as she loaded the washer.
He put hands to her throat his fingers were light.
There were no marks when he took them down

She wonders if it happened.

At night they press close. I see them lying at ease
breath as soft as dark through the summer window.
His hate stirs--she feels it flow toward her
green through the night air
She does not move.  Better that he not know I know

She dreams she is dancing with a radioactive man
he is dying green shining
and because she holds him close
soft breathing to the music fallout
she too will die

and still she will not leave.

She sits on the side of the bed 
her legs start running they chatter like teeth

He says to her in the emergency room
blood on her face and his face white
We cannot go on like this I will give you a divorce
He stands over her in suit and tie
only his cuff is bloody

Her head hurts when she moves it
No she says no

I see her in the garden gathering tomatoes
scarlet in the colander and beans green translucent at the edges.
She looks toward the house. She will have to go in soon.
Her mind is full of fog her thoughts dodge in the mist
He is waiting for his supper I will have to go in soon

Monday, September 4, 2017

Red Riding Hood's Sister accepted for publication

I just heard from Steven Schroeder at Virtual Artists Collective that their press is going to publish my second poetry collection, Red Riding Hood's Sister.  So that's exciting!

Now I need to start thinking about places to read it.  Festivals, book stores, women's centers.  My summer trip next year is going to be more about going places to read than hanging out in the forest! 

And workshops, I've got some workshop ideas too.  Lots of things to think about.

Here's a poem from it.  (It was published this last winter in Rat's Ass Review)


Why these memories 
of punk mermaids
at the all night carnival,
copper nipple rings
turning green from corrosive air?
The barker rasped the night with insults,
the Stones blared eight track
static fizzy on car
radio, shaggy heads
bounced to the music bingo
and she said no and no and no.
But she must have said yes
sometime, some spring
break, some wild
party night
yes to Jack Daniels and crawfish 
red on carny sticks, yes
to lying down under bleachers
yes to her torn heart.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Places to Read Poetry in Austin

I'm back in Texas from a year spent mostly in Oklahoma preparing a house for sale and two summers on the road.  Now the big question, how often to drive into Austin for its fabulous readings and open mics?  It's an hour and a half each way, driving back in the dark dodging the deer, but I want to be part of the community of poetry.

Sunday I attended a small open mic, Recycled Reads, on Burnet Road in Austin.  I'd never been there before, and it was fun to get to know Louise Gail Richardson and Ralph Hausser better.  Thom Woodruff I knew pretty well and having been keeping up with on Facebook, but it was great to see him again.  Excellent writing, small group, reading together around a table. This Sunday was narrative writing (though we really could read whatever we wanted). Two other Sundays are poetry, I think, and one Sunday there's not a group.

Tuesday I went in to Austin again for the Just This writing group at the Austin Zen Center. It meets at 7:30, and people sign up to attend through Meet-up.  I'm a co-leader with Donna Birdwell and Kim Mosley.

We wrote to the prompt:

The world isn't the way I want it to be.
The world is just as it is.
What am I going to do about it?

We read the questions in a circle, each person taking a line, a little like what people do in a musical round, going round the circle several times.  That worked great.  I wish we had a recording of it.  Then we did our usual short meditation, twenty minutes of writing, and sharing what we wrote.  The responses, as usual echoed each other in some themes and brought out new ideas.  I love to hear what people come up with.  Some of the responses will be posted on the Just This site later this week.

I was going to go in to Austin again tonight because several people whose poetry I love read tonight at the New World Deli for the Austin Poetry Society (Cindy Huyser, Gordon Magill, & Brady Peterson are among the group of featured readers) but I couldn't face the drive again so soon.  So I rested and swam with my hound dog Rex and began to feel more human.  Marie Cossa hosts that reading.  There are often songwriters and poets accompanied by music at the reading, and a lot of people have supper.  It's once a month the 4th Thursday of the month 7 PM.

Saturday, though, I'll go to the Georgetown public library for Poetry Aloud, the group that used to meet at Cianfrani's on the square.  It meets the 2nd and 4th Saturdays at 12:30 in the afternoon. (not quite so far for me and daylight)   Mike and Joyce Gullickson are hosting.  Or is it Mike Jones?  Joyce sent me the e mail.  Leaving aside the Just This writers, the group in Georgetown is my home group, though I've been gone so much that they might be surprised to hear that.  The theme will be Homeless, but people don't have to write to the prompt.  The group usually reads poetry but we have at least one songwriter, Ron Kewin, and a couple of people write memoir.  I feel very at home with these kind folks.

And when I'm in town I always try to make Bookwoman on North Larmar in Austin on the second Thursday evenings of the month--about 7 PM.  Fantastic poets! A big group that reads round robin one poem at a time after a featured reader. Sometimes they might have 30 or more people there, though some come just to listen. A lot of energy in that reading.  Cindy Huyser hosts it.

And festivals are coming up in October--Waco Wordfest and the Georgetown Poetry Festival.  More about the later.

Publication Links

Other publications I am associated with

Just This (Zen arts magazine and writing group at the Austin Zen Center):

Just This primarily publishes poetry, essays, and visual art by the members of its

writing group, the Austin Zen Center, and associated Soto Zen centers, but will consider
submissions from others. Its weekly writing group writes to a prompt each Tuesday at 
the Austin Zen Center, Austin, Texas, and is open to the public through Meet-up. I
am a co-leader of the group and a co-editor of the blog format magazine.

All Roads Will Lead You Home (journal for Virtual Artists Collective):

All Roads welcomes poetry, visual art, music, and reviews.  It is a magazine of poetry

and poetics, which welcomes mixed genre.  It welcomes submissions all year round
from anyone, not just members of the collective. I am a member of the editorial
advisory committee.

Crosstimbers: A Multicultural and Interdisciplinary Journal (University of Science 

and Arts of Oklahoma)

Crosstimbers published its last issue in 2013, completing 12 years of publication.  

Writing and art from it can be accessed at the website.  It is no longer accepting 
submissions. I was its Poetry Editor for the 12 years and in its later years its Poetry 
and Fiction Editor.