Poetry New Year’s Resolutions

Yeah yeah, New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken.  I’ve made my fair share of those.  But I’m too old to be making promises to myself that I won’t keep.  Any anyway, this is about poetry.  Why would I roll myself under the bus about something that I love so dearly?


So here goes:


1. Make sure my subscription to Poets & Writers does not lapse.  Yes, sometimes I am more depressed after reading it than when I started, but I truly don’t know of a better source for writers than this magazine.  Plus I love looking through the “Recent Winners” section for people that I know.  In the current issue Chris Offutt won a Literary Artist Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission.  Chris is a fiction writer who wouldn’t know me if he ran into me literally or figuratively, but he used to be on the faculty at the Tin House Writer’s Workshop and I’ve heard him read many times.  He’s a great writer and six degrees of separation I know him.

2. Subscribe to Duotrope and pay for the whole year.  I wish they did a few things slightly differently – I personally would like to see the online journals divided by where they are but I can look at the little flags on the listings.  The world is not going to end.  And anyway it’s after December 21st so for sure it isn’t going to end.     In the scheme of things, it’s a fabulous resource and I’m willing to pay for it.

3. Start writing at least one poem a week.  I get lazy.  I say “the words are swirling around in my head but they’re not ready to come out”.  That’s crap.  I’m not saying that every week I’ll turn out a submission-ready perfect Shakespearean sonnet, I’ll just write things down.  They can be ideas.  They can be lines.  They can be snippets of conversation overheard anywhere.  Eventually they will be ready to be a poem or two, or seven!  Without starting they are just a dream.

4. Try not to be shy at AWP.  This will be the hardest resolution to keep.  I’m terrible with names and I’m terrible with chit-chat.  And the last thing I want is to meet all the editors who have declined my work over the years.  But every year I hear about how great it was and I want to go!  I want to represent San Pedro River Review in a gracious way, even if I feel like the geeky girl in 8th grade standing against the wall at the dance.  From what I’ve heard I can be wildly funny in social situations – I don’t believe it.

5. At least once a quarter buy a book of poetry.  Let me mention we are an equal-opportunity book-buying household.  We have a local “gently used” bookstore where we buy a lot, and we bring them a lot of books.  We have a local big-name bookstore that sells music and coffee and can keep many senses entertained for good portions of the morning.  And we have the “by mail” bookstore, where you can buy everything from _________ to ___________ (reader, fill this in yourself), with books in between.  I myself have anted up for a set of measuring spoons just to get my purchases high enough to get free shipping.  But I tend to go to “Fiction-Land”.  I need to buy more poetry and read more poetry to support our poets and make me a better one myself.

Some of the poets that come to mind on this drizzly morning, the poets that I read and maybe met in 2012 that made me a better poet and a better human, are James Valvis, Dave Malone, Oscar Peña, Ken Meisel.  This is by no means an all-inclusive list.  I have already ordered my first book for 2013.  It is “Unconstructed Constellations” by Joseph Sale.  All I know about it is the book looks lovely, Joseph is young, it should be here next week and I may be a tiny bit envious.

6. Keep my eyes open for new poets to publish.  Please don’t send me poems, that’s not what I mean.  My co-editor and I have found poets when reviewing poems for workshops, poets at workshops, poets who have posted something on Facebook, poets who have read a piece at an open mic…if we read or hear something that we love for our journal, we’re going to ask if we can have it.   If the poet has never been published before we don’t care.  I hope at least one of the two issues in 2013 will have one new poet, hopefully more.I share with you below one of the first poems I ever had published.  I was not a new poet by any means, but had just started reading at open mics and had never published.  It was back in May of 2005, by Red River Review.  If you don’t know the story behind why I started publishing I’ll save it for another time.  Meanwhile, a very happy New Year to you.  Keep writing.  Keep reading.  Publish if that’s what makes you happy and don’t if it doesn’t.  Bless you all.


 Red Plaid


 That old plaid shirt

The one you gave me one day

when I was sick.  You gently draped it

around and buttoned me up like I was a child it

became my blanket, my bunny, my own.

My shoulders could reach up and

rub it quietly across my cheek.  As warm,

and worn as a 50 year old marriage

it brought comfort and something more I can’t explain.

I never washed that shirt.  I never gave it back.  I carefully

made sure to never sweat, never spill I could smell your

cologne for years after you were gone.  So primal

the softness of hand to cheek with just the scent

lingering, I would tilt my face down into the blanket

of your palm inhaling deeply,

and with your shirt I burrow into the

crook of the elbow and remember.  But it was right

that you were gone, as blooms turn toward the sun

they would ignite if actually they touched fire

so were we,  and I could not find fault with

the fading red the aging black the paling green the pilling flannel.

Sometimes I tied it around my waist and sometimes even now

I sleep in it the sleeves are frayed, the buttons wobble as I

close myself in and cuddle with my memories of

how we used to be.

You gave it to me one day when I was sick

I didn’t even know

my soul was needy but you knew.

I will never cut this shirt and use the rags.  I won’t wash the car

with it, I won’t dust the table.  I suppose I will wear it

from time to time when needed and eventually come to

place it in the bottom drawer where my children will find it after

I’m gone, and give it to Goodwill.



Tobi Cogswell is a three-time Pushcart nominee and a Best of the Net nominee.  Credits include or are forthcoming in various journals in the US, UK, Sweden and Australia. Her fifth and latest chapbook is “Lit Up”, (Kindred Spirit Press).  She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.sprreview.com).