May 5, 2021

Robin Knight


I swim with others. 
Some are dolphins, some are sharks. 
Which is which depends on the temperature of the water
or the weather. Something: it’s not clear.
From whale song to hammerhead thrash,
they change their tune at the drop of a mask 
over the side, pulled deep by invisible cable 
to pressurised obscurity. 
Before I know it the warm, blue shallows shelve 
into coldness. Gloom wraps me in panic. 
I pray. My prayer says: 
“Even turtles nip if they think you’re edible.”
Overwhelming, but it’s either that 
or swim alone.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Robin Knight: “I am very high functioning ASC (and mixed race). I am hyper-vigilant and my brain is like a grandmother’s fridge—things long forgotten by others remain there preserved. I make very rapid connections between things that other people don’t—it’s like wearing winged sandals. Sometimes though I find myself in the thick of the trees unable to see the sun or the stars, wondering WTF. These ways of remembering, perceiving, and feeling are the materials of my writing.” (web)

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February 15, 2022

Rattle is proud to announce the winner of the 2021 Rattle Poetry Prize Readers’ Choice Award:

Erin Murphy
Altoona, Pennsylvania
“The Internet of Things”

The 2021 Readers’ Choice Award was selected from among the Rattle Poetry Prize finalists by subscriber vote. Only those with active subscriptions including issue #74 were eligible. In the closest vote since the tie in 2017, “The Internet of Things” earned 16.4% of the votes and the $5,000 award, edging out Rayon Lennon and Susan Browne, who earned 13.9% each. Here is what some of those readers had to say about the winner:

A little like the Winter 2018 cover of Rattle, Erin Murphy’s “The Internet of Things” has the spare geometry of the bare branches of a sapling in a snowfall where a robin, all red feathers, orangey beak, and black mask, perches, waiting for that glance, understanding that will connect two worlds and for a moment, just as long as that glance lasts, let them be one. The subtitle defines the word, but what is “The Internet”—or anything? The spare sequence of doublets leads in sets of keys, key changes, rips on a piano, to “the grief”—”Oh—the grief. The brief / ecstatic flight of things.” And what could have been—and was—isolation becomes connection, even union with those last four words.
—Steve Lautermilch

Because I keep coming back to it. Because each time I read it, it surprises me. Because each time I read it I am showered with a cascade of startling, baffling, and beautiful sensations. Because, finally, the grief given to flight.
—Julie Naslund

Too many poems are autobiographical, and blatantly so. Murphy uses a series of crisp visual images, contrast and duality in this contemplation of connectedness, and ends with sudden severance in a heartfelt outburst of grief. It is a finely crafted work, not at all self-indulgent. The author Charles Dickens spoke of good art hiding the art behind the art. Murphy’s work does that. In her simple and focused images she tells a whole story, placed in the framework of universal contrasts.
—Anita Jawary

I love the abundance of short i sounds that echo things—hill, silt, moonlit, pitter-patter, clipped, skin, stippled. Love the way it says so much with, seemingly, so little. That filtering down to the fundamentals that is so challenging to achieve in a poem is beautifully done here. Given the title and focus on this poem’s investigation, it’s particularly poignant that the shared humanity brought out in the list of things is so very much in contrast to the things on the internet of things. I admire this poem.
—Christine Poreba

“The Internet of Things” is not clever, overwritten, or self-conscious. It does not score political points or tell us how we’re supposed to feel. Every time I read its pure, unhindered truth, it grounds me and brings me such peace, reminding me of what is most important in poetry. My body, my heart recognize the truth inherent in this poem without even having to try. I keep rereading “The Internet of Things” just to experience the afterglow that grounds me in what it really means to be human.
—Elizabeth Potter

I like its brevity, and its playful seriousness.
—Charles Harper Webb

I love the musicality and specificity that jumps out in a list poem of “things.” There is a an exhilaration that builds to the sudden turn to grief at the end—then quickly turns back to wonder. Beautiful!
—Holly York

I tried to judge the poems for imagery, language, feelings realized as I read each; just the overall mastery of the craft, even looking at appearance on the page. My final choice has much to do with an envy long harbored–the gift some have in being able to pull so much meaning and emotion out of so few words! Erin Murphy’s poem is masterful in its brevity. Beautiful in its imagery. Heart-wrenching in her finely honed word selection. I tried to choose a favorite phrase to include here. No can do. It’s freaking full of favorite THINGS.
—Maggie Westvold

To read “The Internet of Things” and all of the other finalist poems, pick up a copy of Rattle #74, or wait until the April, when those poems start appearing online at

Erin Murphy was the winner, but this year’s voters were divided, as they always are—each of the remaining poems received between 6% and 12% of the vote, and all of the finalists had their own enthusiastic supporters. Every year, it’s an interesting and informative experience reading the commentary. To provide a taste of that, here is a small sample of what our subscribers said about the other finalists:

On Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose’s “After My Teenager Tries to Kill Herself …”:

I kept on coming back to this one like a zombie to spongy brains. I was moved by the narrator’s honesty, powerlessness, and love. (Life is hard, almost-death is harder, but the living dead, well …)
—Jonathan Greenhause

Every parent can relate to the nightmare Elizabeth unfolds for us in her poem, even if we have not personally dealt with that circumstance. It’s the fear captured with depth, and precision; the juxtaposition of the nightmare and the reality. There is some measure of absurdity also, with the “jumping Taco Bell’s counter / rummaging for chips and salsa” that is relatable in the way that no matter what we do as parents, things can still go horribly wrong. She brings it home beautifully by marrying the two disparate scenes and pinpointing her/our willingness to lie just to let our children have the last chip. It’s like a punch to the gut. Bravo Elizabeth!
—Shyla Shehan


On Heather Bell’s “This Is How I Make My Money”:

Her poem operates on multiple levels at the same time. It sounds cliche, but I laughed and cried while reading it. Actually, I laughed a lot more than I cried, which I needed. After reading and re-reading this poem, I discovered more of Bell’s work, and I’m thoroughly impressed.
—Charles B. Snoad

The blend of bare confession and hyper imagination, the unspeakable desperation and hysterical laughter, the way this poem runs a million miles away screaming with its teeth on fire while slumped, barely able to sigh in front of the camera. That’s why.
—Michael Mark


On Susan Browne’s “Do You Have Children?”:

The question is like the chainsaw “that just won’t quit.” The wish in the last stanza is so honestly and simply expressed that it seems to hush the rude noise of the insensitive questioner.
—Lee Robinson

I like how the speaker has just been asked that question, and already we’ve got a chainsaw going off behind her. You feel that it’s actually her annoyance. That paired with shouting and hot asphalt, I really thought the poem would end in anger or bitterness. I thought it might get sarcastic when she describes the quilt with the lambs on it. But no. As a pleasant surprise for the reader, she flips the entire mood of the poem on its head with the very last line, which got me.
—T. J. McGuire


On Rayon Lennon’s “Follow Me”:

The poem’s imagery is vivid and unusual, but never contrived or overplayed. I learned something new, without feeling taught. Evoking caged lobsters battling with taped claws as a metaphor for two Black men’s ongoing struggles with class and race? That is something only great poetry can do.
—Nancy Romines Walters

This poem gives me everything I yearn for when reading poetry—stunning language, visceral feeling, and the gut punch of a reality I can relate to a little bit better having read the poem. As a BIPOC woman, I have been on the receiving end of racism in many forms. Yet I have not lived in the skin of a black man. This poem transports me into that experience, while also beautifully elucidating broader aspects of systemic racism in America. An amazing balance of personal and social commentary, brilliantly written. Bravo.
—R.B. Simon


On Dayna Hodge Lynch’s “Black Boys as Fireflies”:

This poem is clearly written and yet metaphorical. It’s powerful because it’s very real. The writer watched it unfold. It’s power is that it’s the story of thousands of young, black men. After the death of George Floyd, we can all understand it. It’s a call to a deeper justice, to reset the balance between young, black men and the police. Dayna has captured a moment in time that we all thought about last year. Her brother’s been stopped by the police. She and his mother can see him. He’s complying with the officers, but will he come home tonight? They watch the lights of police cars flashing like fireflies. Young black men are an endangered species.
—Fred Pierre

I grew up in the south, I’ve felt that, “the air between God’s palms.” The humidity can be stifling. I could imagine as a mother looking on powerless at her son. That’s so painful. Her succinctness is perfection. This will always need to be read, and read again!
—Elizabeth Puckett


On Mary Meadows’s “White Privilege Skydives with Black Guy in Appalachia”:

I enjoyed that the author kept me engaged for 7 1/2 pages of poem that spilled broadly over those pages telling a story that is adventurous, emotional, sexy, relatable, racial and always human. From the title to the concluding period, she kept me going.
—Frank Beltrano

Brave, skillful, and leaping—leaping in so many ways—literally and poetically, in time, space, imagery, and realization. You know, it looked like a long poem, but didn’t feel long at all, not a wasted word (and this is coming from someone who rarely likes anything more than a page or two). But Mary’s poem lifted me off my feet. I also loved her line and word placement. I was easily and willingly along for the ride (and the jump!). It accomplished so much. I was very impressed and moved.
—Tom O’Donnell


On L. Renée’s “Exodus: Gilliam Coal Camp, West Virginia, 1949”:

I love the authentic use of regional dialect and what the mother says to try to keep her child from leaving, and her heartbreak when it happens. A searing story told in the form of a poem, epic.
—Susan Marsh

I love how the personal, universal, historical are so seamlessly woven, and how the pacing and flow of the words wrap powerful, restrained emotion around the story they tell. The lines and verses plod with such somber weight and resignation, so much always-the-same, so much repressed fear, so much mother Mary, while Junior Mary is off to the side, almost out of view, a kite pulling at the end of a tangled line, trying to get lift. The ending feels sudden, like a big gust of wind, only it’s Big Mary’s heart that is cut loose to soar. Threw my heart in my throat.
—Daelene King


On Zella Rivas’s “Purgatorio”:

This poem read like a transcript of my own arguments, my own conflicts, my own fears. I struggle to get down, get out, get past the myths, the lies, the misunderstandings still roiling within me from my childhood six decades ago. This pain, this power, this bravado and toughness are real.
—Francis Hicks

When I first read the finalists, I thought it would be impossible to choose one over the others because they’re so different and each one has so much to recommend it. So I read them again and felt the same way. I wasn’t surprised to read that so far in the voting, it’s pretty much even. But when I reread the poems just now, I realized why “Purgatorio” is the one that stayed with me—and both thrilled and chilled me (again) when I got to the end. I think it’s a brilliant self-portrait and an almost eerily accurate rendering of the battle that the self constantly wages with itself. What I love about the poem is that it shows the battle without oversimplifying it or undercutting its gravity by offering a resolution. We know there really isn’t any resolution other than death. But the poem doesn’t condescend to us by spelling out what we already knew. What we didn’t know is how a poet’s imagination could transform that struggle into art.
—Lynne Knight


On Richard Westheimer’s “My Father Transformed by Dying”:

Westheimer’s poem resonated with me because of its economy of words. The aching recognition of grief as parents grow old and approach death … “no room to move but away” is powerful. How do we reconcile the interior spark of the vibrant (if stern) parent of our childhood with the silent, distant galaxy where that spark has drifted? What do we need for understanding?
—Gurupreet K. Khalsa

My choice is “My Father Transformed by Dying,” for several reasons. It’s the most direct and humanly communicative of the lot, eager to be understood; it has more substance than fireworks; it has the taut, live skin of a sonnet, even without rhyme or perfect meter, and that skin contains it wholly, cleanly, with perfect details conveyed in quick metaphors, without any extra packaging material. The only other poem among them that I almost chose is “The Internet of Things,” which has the same slender economy despite a haunting, musical use of repetition. It’s essentially a love letter to reality, composed–as thought is–of imagery conveyed in sentence fragments: not skin this time, but bones.
—Rhina P. Espaillat

November 16, 2014

Lynne Knight


My mother had Lewy body dementia, too, a late
diagnosis. Eight years of losing all trace
of herself, like someone following her shadow
into a forest that got deeper and deeper
until it became what Thoreau called
standing night. Her name was Knight,

so sometimes I would think of her as
Standing Night, her shadow lost altogether
by then. Her words, her understanding.
So when I heard that Robin Williams
had the same ruinous disease, I thought
what a generous thing he had done,

what a courageous thing, without the help
of drugs or alcohol or anyone, not wanting
to implicate anyone in his death in a state
where assisted suicide is forbidden.
I thought if there were an afterworld
where the soul is restored to its original

form, my mother would find her way
to Robin Williams and tell him he’d done
the right thing, the thing she would have done
if she’d known all she had coming.
But I don’t believe the soul continues.
The spirit lives on in the hearts of others,

so Robin Williams will live as close
as it gets to forever. As for my mother,
she’d be content to know how much
my sister and I miss her, how we still
talk to her, how we rely on her wisdom
to stand us by on darkest nights.

Poets Respond
November 16, 2014

[download audio]


Lynne Knight: “When my mother was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia in January of 1999, there were only four or five websites that had any information about it. But now it’s recognized as the second-most common form of dementia, after Alzheimer’s. Because I believe that had my mother known what she had coming (she was diagnosed four years into the illness), she would have committed suicide, I was deeply moved by this news about Robin Williams. I’m glad he was able to stop the disease before it turned him into someone not himself.” (website)

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February 15, 2017

Rattle is proud to announce the co-winners of the 2016 Rattle Poetry Prize Readers’ Choice Award:

Ellen Bass

Ellen Bass
Santa Cruz, California
“Poem Written in the Sixth Month of My Wife’s Illness”


David Kirby

David Kirby
Tallahassee, Florida
“This Living Hand”

The 2016 Readers’ Choice Award was selected from among the Rattle Poetry Prize finalists by subscriber vote. Only those with active subscriptions including issue #54 were eligible. Both Bass’s and Kirby’s poems earned exactly 14.4% of the votes, resulting in the first ever tie. The $2,000 award is split equally between them. Here is what some of those readers had to say about their choices:

On Ellen Bass’s “Poem Written in the Sixth Month of My Wife’s Illness”:

From line one, I knew this poem was going to take me somewhere boldly vulnerable. I love that the piece depends on the body and title being together to work. The relationship between the loss of the narrator’s mother and wife’s illness is painfully honest and revelatory, yet the rich, detailed memories moving through the piece are so real and close that a sense of comfort is felt, too. This poem embodies not only the heartbreak and beauty of love and loss, but also the doubling of this heartbreak over time. A truly stunning piece! —Nicole Miyashiro

“Poem Written in the Sixth Month of My Wife’s Illness” really hit me hard with the deep emotional truth of it, and a close reading reveals all of the art that brings that truth home. There is a compassionate rendering of parts of her mother’s life. Apparently she minded a liquor store. It seems she was a drinker as well. Some of that life seems so mundane as to be pitiable, but there is no scorn for it, only understanding. All the details are acutely observed: for example her lipstick of Fire and Ice dates her time exactly (of course I remember it because I wore it!). Close after the fire and ice she remembers the snow her mother shoveled. There is an early intimation of death when she describes her mother putting on her bra, settling the straps in the grooves in her shoulders, “reins for the journey.” This reminds me of Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death,” where the horses’ heads were pointed toward eternity. The journey is also her life, headed as all lives are, toward death. A lot of the beauty of the body of the poem is in the assonance and internal rhyme and off-rhyme threaded through it: for example, all the crumpled bills … steeped in the smells of those whose body heat, cheap cologne, onions and grease, lumber and bleach and later the cream of wheat her mother cooked for her father. Never did I feel the sense of the poem was subordinated to this artistry. Instead, the poem gains in feeling so that when it ends with the story her mother told her of when her father was in the hospital in danger of dying and her mother sat in a diner crying while a kind waitress never asked her a question but just continued to re-fill her coffee cup, we are really afraid that the poet sees herself in the same sort of situation, afraid of losing her wife.
—Ann Gearen

I am deeply moved by the Ellen Bass poem “Poem Written in the Sixth Month of My Wife’s Illness,” which avoids reacting to or directly commenting on her wife’s illness and focuses instead upon her mother by presenting her both in moments when they were together or apart in a kaleidoscope of images.
—Marcus Cafagna

From the first unforgettable sentence, “I didn’t know that when my mother died, her grave/ would be dug in my body,” Ellen Bass exerts an unrelenting, emotional and tender assault on the psyche of the “I” (or anyone) dealing with the harsh reality of loss. Details (crumpled bills, pink or yellow napkins, hot black coffee, etc.) become bitter, sweet, knives, and like objects, keep expanding in the universe of memory.
—Brenda Yates


On David Kirby’s “This Living Hand”:

The idea that you can take a fragment written in the margin of a Keats’ poem to tell the story of one lost soul in the sea of many while quoting literary figures, Jefferson’s edited words about truth, and mystics all connecting to Keats’ fragment is an amazement. When Kirby holds his “living hand” out to his dead friend, the Celtic “thin place” opens and I grab it. Listening to the horror of political news this morning yet again, I hold onto Kirby’s poem.
—Perie Longo

David Kirby’s poem “This Living Hand” would be my choice. It is a powerful story, told with understatement and straightforward language. The weaving in of Keats’s dying moments gives the poem an even deeper level of poignancy.
—Alexa Selph

It is a single very personal elegy and homage to writers and writing, to the young who should not have died so young, to multiple stories colliding, to ideals we hold to be self-evident, to a world that should be better but isn’t, and to the mysterious power of poetry. Its casual language and spiritual force undo me every time.
—Alicia Ostriker

“This Living Hand” has well-wrought seams, partly because the most obvious one, “It’s so hard to connect/ with others sometimes,” seems at first too jagged and abrupt—but then it becomes clear that this very abruptness enacts the dilemma at the heart of the poem, between the here and not-here, the living and the dead, a dilemma beautifully resolved at the end as the speaker urges his friend to reach out in the timeless world of the dead the way he was unable to reach out in life. Plus the image of the hand as a metonymy for the writer justifies the sudden presence of Keats in the poem even more—as does the fact that both writers died far too young. I think it’s a deeply moving and beautifully achieved elegy, and apart from Julie Price Pinkerton’s wonderful “Veins,” which feels like a memoir skillfully rendered to its essentials, Kirby’s poem is the one that went straight to my heart and stayed there.
—Lynne Knight

To read these poems, pick up a copy of Rattle #54, or wait until the end of March, when those poems start appearing online at

Ellen Bass and David Kirby were the co-winners, but this year’s voting was more evenly divided than any other—each of the remaining poems received about 8% of the vote, and all of the finalists had their own enthusiastic fans. It’s always interesting and informative experience reading the commentary; to provide a taste of that here is a small sample of what our subscribers said about the other finalists:

On Noah Baldino’s “The Nurse Lifts the Clipboard & Replaces All Your Vital Signs”:

The Lewis Carroll-like play of words, the horror of his/her experience, the times that we’re living in blended with the personal and the public … a surreal experience tinged with wildly black humor. This made for a truly literary and artistic piece that I believe will live on, burned into any soul that knows what it is to be at all different in this world. Noah has crafted a poetic—and scalding—masterpiece.
—Michelle Margolis

In a field of strong poems, Noah Baldino’s “The Nurse Lifts the Clipboard …” stands out. It plays with or presents us with a semi-surrealist scene that is presented emotionlessly, objectively, and yet is disturbing, unsettling. The implicit horror of the situation is all the stronger for the almost off-hand way in which it is narrated.
—Tom Hansen


On C. Wade Bentley’s “Spin”:

Phenomenal piece. Powerful and very balanced between the heartbreak and the logical but melancholy scientific metaphor. This is a striking and honest way of embodying the pain of fatherhood; the interior conflict of our fascination with and distaste for all the emotions that we are unwittingly held captive by (especially with our daughters). We wish only to be strong, and we are thrilled and enchanted by their trust and faith in seeing that. Then, denied this relationship, estranged by geography or circumstance, we find ourselves betrayed by our own strength, abandoned by our believed sovereignty, even our logic is left daft by melancholy as we discover ourselves to be old heroes with no damsels or dragons left to rely upon.
—David T. Trueb

For me, there are multiple touchstones, some which emerged on the first reading, and others that surfaced only on subsequent readings. The poet captured the longings and vulnerabilities of so many parents—and also the real or perceived recriminations we tend to carry throughout our lifetimes. It is comforting to apply the “Spin” and feel the continuum, regardless of where we happen to be walking in relationship to our children in this moment—and then perhaps, even into the beyond. This poem has a universal quality to it, and I appreciate the realm of possibility it offers in the end.
—Susan Turner


On Rhina P. Espaillat’s “The Sharpened Shears He Plied”:

I love how this poem stabs you on its first read, and then just keeps resonating, deepening, drawing you back for further reads to appreciate the exquisite rhyme scheme, the carefully chosen form that fights against the very imagery—an overgrowing garden—that it summons. All while capturing that stab of grief that accompanies a realization of the emptiness of things that once held meaning but cease to when the person who plied them is gone.
—Ilana A Kelsey

This is the shortest poem on offer and, if past choices are to go by, it won’t be chosen. But it is my choice for numerous reasons. There is the sense of a world “almost” in sympathy with the loss but not and that leads to what her note calls “an internal solitude, a human absence that only sentient beings can understand or allay.” And that internal solitude is beautifully modulated in this poem. She mentions the Romantics and the simplicity of the presentation and, especially the last line, remind me of Wordsworth’s Lucy poems. Like Wordsworth, she manages to get great resonance from the simple word “difference,” albeit with another evocation. There is a wonderful sense of rhyme (often slightly off kilter) and a wonderful sense of metre, something that many of the other short-listed poems lack. When a poem is that brief, the choice of words has to be exact. And it is. That penultimate line is a case in point. Someone else, a lesser poet, would have written “Nothing” instead of “No thing.” But that would have changed the metre, the meaning, and the emotion. It is for its wonderful cohesion and its emotional depth that I pick this as my choice of the poem which deserves to win the 2016 Reader’s choice award.
—Conor Kelly


On William Fargason’s “Upon Receiving My Inheritance”:

The work radiates a piercing poignancy that’s all the more powerful because the story of a man—of two men, really—is packed in the form of a poem, a shrapnel bomb explaining co-existent pain and gratitude in one person. The author’s use of relentless thank-you’s is a testament to humility, even while acknowledging the probability of worse things to come. Deeply felt irony reveals a special mind. How else do we gain understanding of others’ lives except through stories? This story happens to be formed as a poem, but its power will resonate with me as though I’d read a thousand-page novel while wide awake.
—Noreen Ayres

I like this “poem without a period.” The run-on syntax of the poem allows for multiple meanings. There is a sense of intensity and concentration and progression and inevitability. There are phrases which can be read in different ways at the same time. The poem builds to a climax which is both appropriate and ironic. One might say that the language of the poem is so precise it cuts like a knife.
—Robert Allen


On Ingrid Jendrzejewski’s “Superposition of States”:

Here is a perfectly balanced poem in which form meets function. The lines are staggered so that what we have are two independent poems married into a new relationship. If read lineally, as it should be, it forms a kind of ghazal. Like the ghazal form, this one gets its power from surprise. But there is something else at work, a kind of verbal peek-a-boo in which the narrator reveals and hides at times, is both objective and subjective, which I think imitates a more realistic processing of intimate event(s). A miscarriage is at the heart of the poem yet is tempered and contextualized by a nearly academic explanation of quantum phenomenon. Ultimately, the clinical sterility of emotion reveals a deeper human grief and loss. The Schrödinger’s cat experiment conducted within, proves the possibility and perhaps the necessity of the poetic form.
—D. Morris

In “Superposition of States,” two strands in tandem, where one is a discussion of measurement that ends a superposition of states in the field of quantum mechanics and the other a description of waiting for the results of a blood test, a measurement of whether a baby is dead or alive, simultaneously distance the speaker from the finality of the situation and add to its intimate coldness. I particularly appreciate the structure of alternating the two discussions line by line that creates dissonant line breaks yet rhythmic repetitions and intersections that parallel the shifting emotional state of the speaker. When it would seem impossible, she expresses that a superposition of states is possible, a baby living and dying. This ending evokes what is the reality for every living creature as well as the tremendous courage to risk having a baby at all.
—Sandra Wassilie


On Craig Santos Perez’s “Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene”:

The sarcastic tone is seemingly roasting the American populace for the longevity of Thanksgiving as a holiday. It brings the symbolism of the classic holiday spread into question, while flippantly commenting on the methods by which all of this food is procured; which in truth, is quite the sensitive matter to some. The idea of consumerism at the expense of humanity is extrapolated line by line as the poet trudges through gruesome facts while softening the truth through humor. But if anything this indifference, or frankly benign attitude, further critiques the attitudes of Americans upon the revelation of such atrocities. Finally, the structure itself was immaculate, especially the use of line breaks in the middle of thoughts. One specific example is found in the 12th couplet, which begins with “most”—which in relation to the previous line makes this one of the most horrid revelations of the poem; the emphasis given truly lends itself to jarring the reader into thinking and not just passively reading.
—Nick Plunkett

Kicked my ass with sad truth. Now I’m going to teach it so it can kick more asses.
—Danny Stewart


Emily Ransdell’s “The Visit”:

I love the power of simplicity. It is a subject many of us can identify with, and the poet conveys this scene with wisdom and compassion. Her understated language hits me in the gut.
—Lori Levy

Though many of the poems were good, the emotion this poem evoked made it the only choice for me. The subject matter is difficult and not easy to read about, but Ransdell’s imagery is perfect, her stanzas tight. The ending goes right to that line of sentimentality without crossing it, something that is not easy to achieve. Kudos to Ransdell for this beautiful poem.
—Robin Wright


On Patrick Rosal’s “A Memory on the Eve of the Return of the U.S. Military to Subic Bay”:

Rosal’s poem strikes that perfect balance of graceful and unsettling. The threat is real and infantilized. Laughter becomes stark, suspicious, but retains its lightness, adds softness right as it adds madness, freezing the reader, perfectly impending. The timeliness of its uncertainty is simply lagniappe.
—Chad Foret

Amazing how a simple day of tag along on a visit can suddenly be pitched to high tense anxiety. “I’m serious …” A five-year-old with a gun, seemingly amused, aware of his “side of the gun.” I am assumming that all came out peacefully—we are never told the outcome—I was a bit freaked as I read. I loved the tension, the interesting spacing in and of lines, it makes you read it differently—like a remembrance told in a haunted way, that stays with the speaker to this day. “I’m Serious!” And if our current state of affairs isn’t a time to be serious, I don’t know when is …
—Mary Ericksen

February 21, 2001

Tribute to Neurodiversity

Conversation with
Michael Mark

Rattle #71 cover, colorful painting of a spiral eye with birds swirling around itThe Spring 2021 issue of Rattle features a Tribute to Neurodiversity. For those unfamiliar, Neurodiversity is a concept that embraces neurological differences as strengths rather than deficiencies. It’s an honor to highlight the rich and complex work being written by the Neurodiverse community. This issue’s conversation features Michael Mark, who discusses how dyslexia has contributed to his life and work, as well as advertising, ghost stories, Buddhism, and many other topics.

The issue includes another exciting and highly-varied open section, presenting poets such as Skye Jackson and Stephen Dunn, covering a wide range of subjects and styles. From gorgeous haiku (“Five Haiku in Spring” by Deborah A. Bennett), to Rebecca Schumejda’s thoughtful narrative poem “Volunteering at the Avian Rescue Center,” to a laugh-out-loud-funny exploration of the struggles of fatherhood (Jeff Tigchelaar’s “Is There Anything I Can Do”), there’s much for everyone to enjoy and savor in this colorful collection.



Audio Available Emily Adams How I Got Committed (A Chapter Book)
Audio Available Stephen Allen Tourette’s Sonnets
Audio Available Lois Baer Barr Train of Thought
Rachael Collins Al-Anon
Audio Available Julianne Di Nenna The Accountant
Karen Downs-Barton On Seeing Your Clothes on Someone Else
Audio Available Meg Eden Laundry Woman
Brendan Egan Breadfather
Aryk Greenawalt American Museum of Natural History …
Clarice Hare Go Get ’Er
Madison Klingbeil Dirty / Pretty
Audio Available Robin Knight Shoalfish
Audio Available Eugenia Leigh Undiagnosed
Chris Marchello The Time Travel Tourism Bureau
Audio Available Michael Mark Unfavorable Odds
Audio Available Palma McKeown How It Started
Xuan Nguyen The Enchantress That Made Us
Esther Ottaway On Whether the Earth Is Flat, Round …
Audio Available Scott Strom 12:32 p.m. 
Audio Available Isabelle Thompson A Mathematically Perfect Heart
Audio Available Justin Vicari Serenade: The Goods on Me

Open Poetry

Audio Available Yasmeen Alkishawi On the Reconstruction of Shame …
Audio Available Yvonne Amey What Dwayne Remembers …
Deborah A. Bennett Five Haiku in Spring
Audio Available Kathleen A. Dale A Question of Time
William Virgil Davis Homage to Donald Justice
Stephen Dunn The Contrarian’s Advice to Himself
Audio Available Eli Eliahu In Our Line of Duty
Audio Available Lupita Eyde-Tucker Mis Gacelas
Audio Available Skye Jackson Can We Touch Your Hair?
Audio Available Brooke James While I Wait
Robert Lynn Prayer for Mr. Armand Palakiko
Mather Schneider My Fifteenth Year
Rebecca Schumejda Volunteering at the Avian Rescue Center
Audio Available J.R. Solonche Go Out and Listen to the Frogs
Audio Available Jeff Tigchelaar Is There Anything I Can Do
Megan Waring Anxiety Charts
Mike White Death


Michael Mark (web)

Cover Art

K.A. Cummins (web)