Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Monday, June 26, 2017

Publication News: June Update

My typewriter

In addition to my double sonnet, "Into the Lives of Other Folk", recently published at North of Oxford, and two poems (including a Miltonic sonnet) in Mezzo Cammin, I'm happy to share the following:

  • Rhina P. Espaillat's review of my Richard Wilbur Award-winning collection, The Frangible Hour, will be published in an upcoming issue of the Alabama Literary Review. Thank you, Bill Thompson! 
  • James Matthew Wilson's review of The Frangible Hour will appear in an upcoming issue of The Weekly Standard as well as in an essay in Catholic World Report, which is where he is publishing his essays on Catholic poets -- all of which will eventually be gathered into a very large book (perhaps two volumes) within the next five years. Thank you, James!
  • Two more reviews of The Frangible Hour, one published in Presence, the other in Think, are now on my blog pages on the left side of the home page.
  • Light Poetry Magazine has accepted my leona rima (9 lines of iambic tetrameter
    a, a, b, b, c, c, c, b, a ), "There are always more fish in the sea . . ." for an upcoming issue. Thank you, Melissa and team!
  • Think (Western Colorado State University) will be publishing my villanelle, "Multiverse", in their spring/summer 2017 issue on the theme of poetry and philosophy. Thank you, Susan Spear!
  • The Rotary Dial has accepted my sonnet, "Summer of 1970" for a future issue. Thank you, Alexandra and Pino!
  • Measure has accepted several poems for upcoming editions, "Anthracite" and "We" (a sonnenizio). Thank you, Rob and Paul!
  •  I've just signed the official papers for the inclusion of my poem, "Edward Hopper's Automat" in an anthology to be published in Canada next year. Thank you, Susie!
  • I have written a lengthy review of Timothy Murphy's Hunter's Log, Volume Two and Volume Three. Awaiting a reply on publication.
  • Quadrant  poetry editor, Les Murray, has written me a nice letter, and accepting my "Scintillae" for an upcoming issue. Thanks, Les!
  • Three poems have been accepted for the December issue of The Orchards Poetry Journal: "The Watchers at Punta Ballena, Uruguay", "Prayer on December 26", and "Spirit". Thank you, Carol Lynn and Karen!
  • Three of my poems will appear in the National Poetry Registry of Canada, Library of Parliament anthology of Canadian poets. Those poems are "Superbia", "Full Snow Moon", and "The Lost Villages: Inundation Day".  Thanks to Canada's Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke!
Feeling blessed!

Monday, June 12, 2017


Five years ago today, the most beautiful and strongest person I know, my daughter Caitlin, began a long and ultimately successful journey back to health after suffering a cerebral aneurysm. Love you, my sunshine! ♥ And thank you again to Dr. Michel Bojanowski and his team at the Centre hospitalier de l' Université de Montréal, Hôpital Notre-Dame.

Below is my poem, "Almost", dedicated to Caitlin.

— for Caitlin

i.          Silverweed

Silverweed, also known as cinquefoil, is the symbol of maternal protection of a beloved daughter, as the leaves will bend over the flower when it rains—  Natural History Museum, Cable, Wisconsin

Telephones that ring at three a.m.
mean bad news,
yet you must answer them.
You lose
your voice, then find a stratagem,
your shoes,

your cell, your cool, your car keys, certitude.
You must believe.
You mustn’t come unglued.
Don’t leave
the rosary beads behind. Saint Anne! Saint Jude!
You weave

along the boulevards at blinding speed,
and though you make
a deal with God, you need
to shake
that weighty metaphor for silverweed.
Or break.

ii.         The Vigil

You’re in a coma in Intensive Care.
A portion of your skull has been removed.
A feeding tube delivers sustenance.
A ventilator tube delivers air.
I sit beside you on a folding chair.

A monitor with multicolored lines
deciphers whether you will make it through
as medications drip into your veins.
A path of staples holds your scalp in place.
I’m thankful that you cannot see my face.

June. July. My fourth novena starts.
In counting off the decades on your hands,
I meditate on Joyful number five:
to find my child as Mary found her son—
alive and well. And when this vigil’s done,

and you are home again—as you must be—
when grace drives out the shadows, you will tell
of how you sensed the doctors come and go,
and heard You Are My Sunshine in your sleep,
and somehow knew your mother would not weep.

iii.        Off-the-wall

It’s late. Soon I will yank them off the wall―
these posters urging one to think about
the selfless act of signing off on heart,
on corneas, kidneys, liver, lungs and skin.
My satisfaction will be pure, perverse.

At 2 a.m., with no one in the hall,
not caring if they ever find me out,
I exercise my right to fall apart,
ask God’s forgiveness for this venial sin,
and jam the jagged pieces in my purse.

It’s far too early yet to know if she’s
to live or die; and I shall not assume.
The day shift nurses and the orderlies
arrive as grace notes trim the waiting room.

iv.                Pena negra

Los caballos negros son. – Federico García Lorca,
from “Romance de la Guardia Civil Española”

I will not mince my words and call it brown,
as in brown study. No insipid blues.
I will not misinform with pastel hues
or undertones for adjective and noun.
The world is saturated monochrome.
Beyond the window, trees (I guess) are green
and sunsets golden as they’ve always been
before this hospital became my home.

My pen suspends above a livid page―
an invitation to incarnadine
its surface with resentment, ravings, rage.
But red won’t do. The words that span this line
that runs between the points of hell and back
can only be conveyed in shades of black.

v.                  Afterwords

I gather up the get-well cards and flowers
and dress her in her street clothes, socks and shoes,
then wheel her out into the summer air.
She is alive. Alive against all odds.

I’ve chronicled her unaccounted hours,
for days are things one can’t afford to lose:
the words tell how, with nothing left but prayer,
I trusted in a surgeon’s hands. And God’s.

The little notebook, thorough, stark, exact,
recounts procedures, numbers on a chart;
and since the point-by-point is based on fact,
she’ll never read of daggers to the heart
or how—amid disaster—the mundane
and blessed act of writing kept me sane.

(Hôpital Notre-Dame, Montreal, June, July, August, 2012)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

North of Oxford

HERE is the link to my double sonnet, "Into the Lives of Other Folk". 

The poem was inspired by something Robert Frost said in an interview many years ago, i.e., that he wrote one of his "best poems" while on a stopover in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He said he wrote it in a hotel room while standing on his head!  The title of that poem is "On the Heart's Beginning to Cloud the Mind."

Thank you to Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, Poetry Editor at North of Oxford.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Plain Beauty

Here's a link to my curtal sonnet, Plain Beauty.

The poem is on page 3.

Many thanks to Editors of The Rotary Dial, Alexandra and Pino.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Rotary Dial

Some good news!

My curtal sonnet, Plain Beauty, has been accepted for publication in the Canada-based online poetry journal, The Rotary Dial.

Thanks to editors Pino and Alexandra.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

National Poetry Registry of Canada

I'm happy to announce that three of my poems, "Full Snow Moon," "Superbia," and "The Lost Villages: Inundation Day," have been chosen by George Elliott Clarke, Poet Laureate of Canada, for inclusion in the National Poetry Registry, Library of Parliament.

All three poems are in my second book, "Glad and Sorry Seasons," published by Biblioasis in Windsor, Ontario in 2014.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Alabama Literary Review

Three of my poems, "Memento", "Lessons at Fall Kill Creek", and "The Woodlot" are now online HERE. Volume 25, No. 1 (2016). On pages 25, 26 and 27.

Many thanks to editor, William Thompson.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

"From the beautiful to the brittle": The Frangible Hour

An excerpt from Rebekah Martindale’s review, “Inside the Garden Gate” for Think Journal. 

Thank you, Rebekah, and editor Susan Spear.

Catherine Chandler’s The Frangible Hour captures moments in time from the beautiful to the brittle.

The book’s opening sonnet begins with a moment of intense personal experience, the instant when beauty is recognized as “an unendurable embrace.” Reminders of beauty’s fragility cover the temporal spectrum—Seconds: the moment of awe, Minutes: the fleeting “quiddity of daybreak,” Days: the “yellow-green” of the leaves, Weeks: the “garden plot of rhubarb and asparagus,” Months: the summer itself whose demise is imminent, Years: the child, who is transformed into adulthood as the poem proceeds. Then finally, Hours, in the closing couplet as the woman returns to the garden gate, “stockings wet with dew” and delays her housework for “an hour or two.”

Chandler evokes the Koine Greek pathos of beauty, hōraios, which associates beauty with “being of one’s hour,” which is not forever. References to time—hours, days, weeks, seasons—measure the poems in Part I and reappear frequently. Chandler also evokes the liturgical calendar as she moves through the “Lenten brume,” of “Wherein the Snow is Hid” to images of Easter morning in “Zeeman’s Paradox.” Her poem, “Chasubles,” links the liturgical with the temporal.

Roots suck down the spectrum’s red
to steel a brutal crust;
leaves must take what’s left of light—
epitome of trust.

Summer’s a smiling charlatan
camouflaged in green
where violet truths lie mantled in
the seen and unseen.

The seven elegies that make up Part II, subtitled “Days of Grass,” are reflections on Psalm 103:15-16: “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.”

The first five poems are dedicated to specific people (and a dog). The last two poems, which are more general meditations on death are in lighter verse forms. These bouncy rhythms not only give the poems an eerie tinge, but also quicken the pace, creating a nice transition into Part III: from the poem “Heal-all”:

Bring me a barn loft of heal-all
and up with my heartbreak I’ll climb.
I won’t drink it or eat it
because, though I need it,
my wounds want the heal-all of time.

Part III continues with short, often witty, poems celebrating great and small moments. It presses on us references to time, such  as “summer,” “spring,” “winter,” “lifespan,” “point,” “day,” “month,” “year.”

The humorous sonnet, “Olēka,” in which the narrator is confronted with the unused spices in her double-decker spice rack ends Part III on an ironic note: the awareness of how few days are memorable.

Part IV brings us moments of regret, recognition, and despair. Again, it is the reminder of hōraios that give the poems poignancy and cohesiveness. Both beauty and brittleness are captured in the slant rhyme Christmastime sonnet, “For Melina, 8, Sleeping.” Here it is the unsaid word lurking just below the surface that threatens the sleeping girl, but it also invites the reader to recognize the hōraios in her.

Soon enough some callous, hard-nosed kid
at school will razz you for your artless faith,
and blab the truth you sense behind the myth.
I wish you sugarplums, as my unsaid
revelation like an axiom,
swirls above the silence. Does no harm.

Part V, the final section of the book, consists of meditations on death and grief. The harrowing five-part poem “Almost” documents the near death of the author’s daughter. Now time is measured in novenas and decades counted on her comatose daughter’s hands. Chandler ends with an elegy to her father, closing her book with prayerful couplets. These final couplets rise up as concrete formations of a spiritual honesty that has infused the book all along:

A birth. A life. A death. A promise barely kept—
these tenuous words of denouement: a song of praise.

She deals in tar & tallow, turpentine & twine,
lifts one last chantey to the dawn—in song, she prays.

"The metaphysical within the physical": The Frangible Hour

New Review by Janet McCann for the print journal, Presence. Thank you, Janet and also editor, Mary Ann  Miller.

The Frangible Hour, Poems, by Catherine Chandler (The University of Evansville Press, 2016)

The Frangible Hour is a delight to read, especially for those who appreciate formal poetry.  The book seems an especially appropriate choice for the Richard Wilbur Prize, as the poet, like Wilbur, is a master of forms, and the poems are infused with a metaphysics that makes of the natural world a luminous place.  Not that the poems are always upbeat, but the spiritual dimension is always present.

Catherine Marie Chandler was born in New York City and raised in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She holds a Master of Arts from McGill University. Chandler has lectured at McGill for many years and also held the post of International Affairs Officer.  Her previous books include Lines of Flight, This Sweet Order, and Glad and Sorry Seasons; this new collection, The Frangible Hour, is the winner of the 2016 Richard Wilbur Award.

The poems offer us a full palette of forms, and it is fun to recognize them all, the sonnets, pantoums, ballads, ghazals, rimas dissolutas, triolets, and so forth.  But her use of form is flexible and not intrusive.  Form does not bully sense into compliance, but rather creates a barely heard melody behind the meditation or observation.  She uses pleasing off-rhymes and the rhythms are never metronome-like.  When forms have both loose and tight definitions, she uses the looser one—the ghazal for instance for purists has a lot of rules, but she follows only the more basic ones.  The music forms a counterpoint to the expected grammatical flow of the sentence. There is a wry humor in some of the poems and this too fits the patterns she chooses.

Science and math inform the poems, noticeable even in the titles. Footnotes at the end fill in some of the complicated bits, but happily the reader does not need them to intuitively grasp the poem. In fact, the accessibility of the poems is part of their appeal.  One poem is described as “a Fibonacci sonnet with ostensible mathematical references to the Argand Diagram and Huygens’s Principle of Diffraction,” but we do not need this information to appreciate the poem. There are words we may not know but their sense is usually telegraphed by their content. The epigraphs are well-chosen, also, from the Bible to Robert Frost to newscasts; they intrigue and direct. Sometimes they refer to the incidents that generated the poetry, as in the short poem “Exhuming Neruda,” which shows her command of metrics and her ironic wit.

“Poet’s story becomes a murder mystery: Chile exhumes Pablo Neruda’s remains.”
                                    --CNN headline, April 10, 2013
At Isla Negra, Neftalí, you sang of joy and pain,
of poverty, Matilde, birds, of artichokes and rain.

And once at Isla Negra, they searched each corner of
your hideaway, but all they found was bread and wine and love.

And now at Isla Negra, they are digging up your bones,
they’ll fly them to the capital, then rearrange the stones.

At Isla Negra, Neftalí, far from the abattoirs,
a leaf drifts to the earth amid the keen of grass and stars.

Chandler’s images create a natural world that is frightening but must be seen in the context of faith.  The imagery in “Wherein the Snow is Hid” to this reader recalls Sylvia Plath’s “Point Shirley,” as the picture and rhythms seem to echo the Plath poem. The poem begins

along potholed ruelles, plowed rough and high,
lie last December’s snows
with jagged firn from months when I,
in numb goodnight,
have curled up in the company of crows.

Nature is bleak and threatening, offering the chance of eternal winter.  The speaker concludes, though, that

                                       …I know the pond will bloom,
The wild geese will return.  They always do.
And so it is I cope
with winter. For although it’s true
one’s fear of God
At times might rule out razor, river, rope,

hope holds me here, ludicrous and odd,
valuing March above
July’s colossal verdant fraud,
because a mass
of freeze-thaw scree bears witness to a love

that once approached the melting point of glass.

Indeed the poem seems to answer Plath’s, whether intentionally or not—the passage of time and seasons does not prove the meaninglessness of the individual life, as in Plath’s poem, but in a strange way affirms it.

The book is divided into five sections,  and includes poems about nature, faith, the inhabitants of a small town, plants and herbs, glimpses of a Catholic childhood, loss of a father, and near-loss of a daughter—especially persuasive are those about her daughter’s near death from an aneurysm.

In this collection, form and meaning are so welded that the rhythms still repeat after the reader has closed the book, keeping their message in memory.  The Frangible Hour is an inspiring book, especially for those who seek the metaphysical within the physical.

Janet McCann’s work has been published in the Kansas Quarterly, Parnassus, Nimrod, Sou’wester, America, Christian Century, Christianity and Literature, New York Quarterly, Tendril, and others.  A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, she taught at Texas A & M University from 1969-2016, and is now Professor Emerita. She has co-edited anthologies with David Craig, Odd Angles of Heaven (Shaw, 1994), Place of Passage (Story Line, 2000), and Poems of Francis and Clare (St. Anthony Messenger, 2004). Most recent poetry collection: The Crone at the Casino (Lamar University Press, 2014).

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Orange and Silver


Two poems accepted today by Light for their upcoming "Impossible Rhymes" issue. I found hilarious rhymes for both orange and silver. Stay tuned.

Thanks, Melissa and team!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Newburyport Literary Festival: Mark Your Calendars!

Newburyport, Massachusetts

I'll be reading from my new book, The Frangible Hour, and perhaps from my other two collections as well, at 2 pm on April 29, 2017.

Short bios of the poets HERE.

I hope many of you will be able to join in the fun!

Thank you, Alfred Nicol and Committee Members!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award Finalist!

Sunset Beach, California (source:

I'm thrilled to announce that my poem, "Family at Sunset Beach, California" was chosen as a finalist for the 2016 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. A complete announcement may be read HERE.

Thank you to Bill Baer and to Rachel Hadas (final judge). Also thank you to Timothy Steele, who discussed the poem with me at last year's Frost Farm Poetry Conference, and who suggested a small change to a verb, which improved the scansion of line 10.

"Family at Sunset Beach, California" begins with a little girl "digging for China" in the sand. Subsequent events cause the parents to make a trip to Disneyland, and the poem ends somewhere out in the universe. A lot happens in 14 lines!

The poem will be published in the journal Measure sometime this year.

And thank you to the Holy Spirit for the gift of being able to put my chaotic thoughts into some kind of order.