January 28, 2023

Mary Meriam


Now that I’m fifty, let me take my showers
at night, no light, eyes closed. And let me swim
in cover-ups. My skin’s tattooed with hours
and days and decades, head to foot, and slim
is just a faded photograph. It’s strange
how people look away who once would look.
I didn’t know I’d undergo this change
and be the unseen cover of a book
whose plot, though swift, just keeps on getting thicker.
One reaches for the pleasures of the mind
and heart to counteract the loss of quicker
knowledge. One feels old urgencies unwind,
although I still pluck chin hairs with a tweezer,
in case I might attract another geezer.

from Rattle #32, Winter 2009
Tribute to the Sonnet


Mary Meriam: “Since I am the voice of a violet crushed by soldiers’ boots, I write poems. Since I am the last living passenger out of a subway disaster, I write poems. Since I am a wet quark in a dry universe, I write poems. Since I am a lover’s dream of her love, I write poems.” (web)

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March 24, 2022

Ekphrastic Challenge, February 2022: Artist’s Choice


Diaphona by Sarah-Jane Crowson, collage of a human-like deer standing near jellyfish

Image: “Diaphona” by Sarah-Jane Crowson. “Homemaker” was written by Mary Meriam for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, February 2022, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Mary Meriam


Mother of Earth, conceive the art of home,
give birth to jellyfish, the start of home.

My drawings screw the seeds to root and grow
to green, the frame of every part of home.

Didn’t she sex the trees from outer space?
Wasn’t blue-black my counterpart of home?

The miles I travel hard until my head
is antlered, both the doe and hart of home.

I have this reaching after flight, this dress
that doesn’t fit, fast birds, my heart of home.

Dismiss my poverty and build for me
a golden house to hang the art of home.

She steers the moon, the clouds that lift and roll
the chariot of time, the chart of home.

Marvel of whales, of mythic story-telling,
of seas that never drift apart, of home.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
February 2022, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Sarah-Jane Crowson: “I thought that this was such a beautiful ghazal, and that the ghazal form worked so well with the collage form of the artwork. I loved how within each image I can read ideas from the original picture, but I also love how these are taken in a new direction, creating new narratives or possible narratives—the poet’s creative response changing the ideas in the picture, transforming these into something different. I thought that the choice of form also aligned really well with collage as a medium—both, perhaps, thread together images that draw strength from each other whilst being in some ways dislocated. I also really appreciated the technical skill of the poem—how the quafia and radif worked so beautifully together, and the iambic patterning of the poem held it all together.”

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June 23, 2016

Ekphrastic Challenge, May 2016: Editor’s Choice


Painting by Catherine Edmunds
Painting: “Castlerigg” by Catherine Edmunds. “Alone in Love” was written by Mary Meriam for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, May 2016, and selected by Timothy Green as the Editor’s Choice winner.

[download broadside]


Mary Meriam


She isn’t mine. I am alone in love.
Inside my mind and soul, I moan in love.

The sound is pearly shell. The sound is slight,
only a cell of sound, a stone in love.

My flower bed so lavishly in bloom,
my elm tree’s swelling leaves, my own in love.

Those fragile fantasies of love I drew
erased in anguish, overthrown in love.

She hasn’t ears and eyes for this, old fool.
Impossible, your monotone in love.

Just face it, Mary, time is running short.
Love less, or you will die alone in love.

Ekphrastic Challenge, May 2016
Editor’s Choice Winner

[download audio]


Comment from the editor on his selection: “As artist Catherine Edmunds mentioned last week, the best ekphrastic poems tend to be those that use the source image as a doorway into something new. In this well-crafted ghazal, Mary Meriam seems to draw on the emotion of the stark angled strokes and color palette of the painting, but makes the leap of personifying what seems to be a rock at the center, transforming it into an image of lost love and loneliness.” Learn more about Mary Meriam at her website.

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September 16, 2015

Mary Meriam


She took me home—or what I thought was home,
but was in fact a hell she made for us.
We left The Sound of Music with the fuss
that I was making, working out my poem

in sobs. She asked me what was wrong. I said,
“I want to be there,” in the Alps, singing,
twirling with her in sunshine. I was clinging
to song, with nothing real to hold instead.

She gave me pain—no comforting the way
most mothers do, I guess. And so I wept
like no tomorrow, out of love. We left
for rainy sidewalks to the car, the day

falling in dusk, the pity I had to make,
the bleak, deserted street I had to take.

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015

[download audio]


Mary Meriam: “The scene in ‘Ars Poetica’ has been haunting me for a long time, so it’s a relief to have finally brought that ghost to the light of day. Now some of the pain I felt has been transformed into the formal pleasures of a sonnet.” (website)

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July 30, 2009

Review by Mary Meriam

by Gail White

David Robert Books
PO Box 541106
Cincinnati, OH 45254-1106
ISBN 978-1934999066
2008, 80 pp., $17.00

Encountering a poet and her book of poems for the first time, I find myself fascinated by the slow emergence of the book’s persona. In a book of formalist poems, the persona can be seen in stanzas, like the rooms of a house. Though she may be working with received forms, these are rooms of the poet’s own creation, and she is free to move in and through the rooms as she wishes. Who is this persona? What is she moved by? How does she move through her rooms? For women have always had less space in which to move. Does the enclosure of the form open outward or spiral inward?

The poems in Gail White’s Easy Marks are marked by a central persona known as “woman,” in this case a highly intelligent woman aware of the restrictions around her and the prejudices against her. She’s an outsider, she may have disappeared, she may be a ghost, but she has plenty to do in her rooms, as we can see in this powerful poem:

The Disappearance of Mary Magdalene

At Pentecost, she’s gone. Her tongue of fire
had come already, scorching Peter’s brain
with a subtle whisper, “I have seen the Lord.”
Then, not another sound. As if she knew,
with her next breath, Peter was taking charge:
this movement was for men. There’d be no chair
for her in their tight circle.

Underground, her faith ran like a waterfall. She lived
a hermit’s life. If women sought her out,
their stories thumped like washing on the rocks,
buckets in wells. Theirs was a gospel word
that shunned the daylight—tales Paul never heard.

Continue reading

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July 5, 2009

Review by Mary Meriam

by Julie Kane

University of Illinois Press
1325 South Oak Street
Champaign, IL 61820-6903
ISBN 978-0-252-07140-9
2003, 88 pp., $14.95

Once upon a time, there was a powerful ruler called King Booze. Almost all the people were in thrall to King Booze, who was vicious and bloodthirsty and sucked the life out of his people. Only the most brave subjects of King Booze managed to escape his clutches. These brave souls formed little groups, but still, it wasn’t the same as being part of King Booze’s mighty nation. They were lonely.

The loneliness we get at night Continue reading

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April 30, 2009

Review by Mary Meriam

by Rose Kelleher

The Waywiser Press
P.O. Box 6025
Baltimore, MD 21206
ISBN: 978-1904130-33-8
2008, 88 pp., £7.99

Why do we read poems? Poems can be songs, prayers, chronicles, confessions, memories, meditations, complaints, portraits. Poems give us contact with the world and help us feel less alone. Reading a poem can be a moment of pleasure in an otherwise painful world. Sometimes poems speak for us when we can’t find the words, when it all seems too terrible. Here’s where we can be thankful for Rose Kelleher’s brave, strong book of poems, Bundle o’ Tinder. This book wrestles demons to the ground and pins them there, crushed.

In Kelleher’s poem, “Lourdes,” compassion is in full force. Lourdes is a grotto in France, with spring water that many pilgrims believe can heal. With great gusto, Kelleher writes:

Burst the spigots. Overflow.
Send mercy surging down the mountainside,
washing over every borderline.
Don’t just stand there. Go

These commanding lines are just one Continue reading

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