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Editor's Note Section

Winter Issue 2024 Volume 4 Issue 1

Editor's Note

 Editor's Note

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Change is a part of life. The seasons change; we change our clothes; change our plans; change partners. And Quartet is changing.


Two of our founding editors, Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll, and Gail Braune Comorat are leaving the journal to pursue new projects and adventures.


Heather L. Davis will be joining Quartet as our guest contributing editor for 2024, and we are happy and privileged to have her. Heather hails from Lancaster, PA, and is a poet married to a poet. You will feel her influence in the selection of poems in this and future issues.      


“… isn’t there always one good thing to look back on? Think of how many cups of coffee we drank together.”


The above quote is by Charles Bukowski. We, the four founding editors, have a long history of good things to look back on: over ten years of writing retreats, publication of a collaborative book of poems, lunches, readings, and many cups of that metaphorical coffee. Wendy and Gail are leaving the journal but most certainly their essence will be felt in the pages of Quartet as it moves forward.



And so—


            Outside the bedroom window dawn gathers at last,

            rolls in, breaks

            easy on the river’s shore.

            You still your senses, memorize…


                                    —Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll

                                                “Doppelganger” from River, Farm



And so—


            We walk into dimness, eyes adjusting

            in the sudden silence, noses wakened

            by scents of cedar and dust, the motion above

            of birds leaving nests.


                                    —Gail Braune Comorat

                                                  "Starlight Barn" from Phases of the Moon

—Linda Blaskey



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Lana Hechtman Ayers
Linda Cooper
Alicia Elkort
Tara A. Elliott
Janis Harrington
Paula J. Lambert
Xiaoly Li
Betsy Mars
Kirsten McAteer

Lana Hechtman Ayers

On the Nature of Grief

            after Patricia Fargnoli


It is not the bufflehead floating on the pond that dives 

headfirst into the stillness. It does not quiver 


like the squirrel along the fence line, worrying away at

some nut, nor is it the jittery rabbit chased into the

hedges by unseen hounds.


It permeates the landscape of the mind, wish stars and

sunrises, the ever-shifting phases of moon, and falls like

rain cold, soaking, drenching. It also thunders. 


Take notice how fog clings to the mountaintop. Take

notice how air swirls into gale force in a single pulse of

your heart. This is grief.


It cares not a whit for the work you need to


grief is lights out, power grid fried, silence that


even as the moon waxes.


It is not inanimate. Not a boulder rolled uphill or


of swiftly emptying sand. Not even frost heaves in

asphalt or an algae-stained empty swimming pool. But

it might be dust. Ordinary dust.


It is the amorphous sheen of shadow as clouds sheet

across the horizon obliterating the cornflower blue of



It is red sirens of night, cawing startle of crows 

scattering from pine boughs, swarm of hornets seeking 

heat of skin to sting.


Massless, yet heavy as uranium, we bear our griefs 

as pinned wings, ever grounded from flight.


My poem “On the Nature of Grief” is after Patricia Fargnoli’s poem of the same name. I attended Pat’s poetry workshops in Keene, New Hampshire in the mid-1990s and she took me under her wing. She became not only a mentor, but a cheerleader for my work and a dear, dear friend. Pat encouraged me to send my poems out to journals, something I was terrified of doing because I didn’t think my work was good enough to merit publication. She also encouraged me to get the MFA I dreamed of when I was in my twenties, assuring me it was never too late—her first poetry collection, Necessary Light, won the May Sarton Award judged by Mary Oliver when she was in her 60s. Pat believed in me so powerfully, I began to believe in myself as well. And when my poems started getting published in journals, she urged me to put a collection together and start sending that out. Without Pat’s sincere faith in me, I don’t think I ever would have been able to get any work out into the world. I owe her so much—a debt that can never be repaid. But I do my best to pay her kindness and generosity forward by running three poetry presses where I have published over one hundred individual poet’s collections, as well as poetry anthologies. After Pat died in 2021, I began rereading all of her books and was inspired to write after poems to many of them. It is as if we are still conversing even now—a conversation in verse. This grief, the loss of Patricia Fargnoli, is most certainly heavy as uranium, pervasive as dust.

—Lana Hechtman Ayers

Linda Cooper



Merriam Webster Addresses a Hole



a: an opening through something : PERFORATION


The ozone has a hole in it.

            a bullet hole


b: an area where something is missing

            Her death left a hole in his life.


c: GAP: such as

(1): a serious discrepancy : FLAWWEAKNESS

             some holes in your truth (aka alternative truth)

(2): an opening in a defensive formation

            A slit in a childhood where danger seeps

            especially : the area where there is need



a: a hollowed-out place

a hole in an apple

           see Eve in the beginning

: a cave, pit, or well in the ground

            dug a large hole with a steam shovel to bury the dead/memories



a rabbit hole; place to hide

c: an unusually deep place in a body of water 



a: a wretched or dreary place

           How could anyone live in such a hole? See Earth

b: a prison cell, especially for solitary confinement

Antonym: holy

Homonym: whole

Poetry has been many things to me since I was small. When I was little enough to sit on my grandmother's lap, she read to me from Two Hundred Best Poems for Boys and Girls. The poems were comfort and safety. As I grew to start writing my own poems, poetry became a way to rise from difficult emotions, to transform my own sadness into something beautiful. Words, sentences, and books have always been friends to me. On my bedside table: Judas Goat by Gabrielle Bates, But She Is Also Jane by Laura Read, and Flow by Leona Ziegler, my young friend in 4th grade, wise beyond her years.

—Linda Cooper

Alicia Elkort


Driving with Pilar to Play Mahjong


Two women in a car.

Two women driving to another friend’s home.

Two women driving in a car with a cracked windshield that looks like lightning etched into glass. 


Or put another way—the lines express magnitude.

My friend hasn’t fixed the windshield for months, and that is strange but not really once I imagine

the shape of the line looks like lightning because how magnificent is that to see lightning every time you get in the car? 

I look beyond at the snow on the mountain—there’s a sharp chill in the air like a pillow, like an imprint, an etching.


Snowflakes on a dark wool mitten is a memory I have from childhood—trying to find a pattern that repeats, which it never does, they say.


An infinitude of designs, as if happiness could last forever.


Two years now in Santa Fe, like a dream, like a wedding, a homecoming.


My friend says something that makes me laugh, and we laugh together, another day like all the other days.


My body hums like a guitar.


My body hums like honey, like swimming, like walking among old oak trees.


What I’m feeling is gratitude, is blessing.


When I tell my friend that I’m so happy now, and it wasn’t always so, tears come to my eyes because

of how happy I am, but also sad that it took so long to find this freedom like candy, like blue sky,

like a mare’s soft nose.


Now the tears are wet and abundant. 


And when this moment could never be any more perfect, with the winter sun sliding down the

adobe walls of the houses we pass and with junipers along the arroyo like sisters dancing in the sand, my friend says,


Well, you are here now, and that’s what counts.


Mostly we feel alone in our losses. When that happens, it seems there is nothing to be done. But sometimes a friend or even a stranger can pierce the veil of alienation and enter with a truth so profound, we are easily shifted into wisdom. My poem sprung from one such experience. I was overwhelmed by the spaciousness, friendship, beauty, and the rightness in my life, but I was also feeling a sadness that I hadn’t been clever enough to find this for myself earlier. When I dared to express that out loud, a pointed wisdom came through Pilar—the wisdom of living in the present—that I easily moved into gratitude and celebration.


I knew I wanted to write a poem about this moment but how to capture the expansiveness of it all was the question. I found that breaking down this larger moment into the many smaller moments I had at one time experienced, in essence a kaleidoscope of experience to land the reader into any kind of similitude of feeling. The experience wasn’t like this or that, it was the vastness of experience, like a massive genie in a tiny bottle and when I popped the cork, an avalanche of images poured out. 


One of the poems that I have loved for a long time is Aracelis Girmay’s “On Kindness.” She writes of a moment she witnessed. The cadence and the repetition land the reader directly into a larger truth about kindness. Another poem that does this so beautifully is Ross Gay’s “Opera Singer.” The poem starts with sadness and ends in gratitude. He speaks of the “tongue’s clumsy thudding," but the poet’s “clumsy thudding” has shifted the reader into the beauty of the world. My hope is that my small poem arrives somewhere near there. 


—Alicia Elkort

Tara A. Elliott



And you are fading, Amelia,

fading into blue,
           where sky greets water

           and the long finger of sand stretches out, pointing the way home.

They will find you, Millie; find 
you and ground you—

                          pin you to Earth

            like a collector does a moth.


And again, they will pitch martyr 
           from myth, roll away the unexplainable, yaw 
imagination into air.



At the age of twenty, while attending St. Mary’s College of Maryland, I was gifted the rare job of becoming Lucille Clifton’s driver. Along back country roads, we would discuss poetry and life. Never a good student, Lucille would often ask me questions. When I didn’t know the answer, I’d reluctantly tell her. She’d always say, “I don’t know why I thought you would know that, probably because you’re so incredibly smart.” After dropping her off at Montgomery Hall, I’d make the trek to the college library where I would research her question. I was always thrilled to find some of my research in her poems.


Within the past ten years, I have survived a ruptured brain aneurysm, my son's diagnosis of Asperger's, and the loss of my mother to a rare form of dementia (PPA). Understanding how the brain functions and processes memory has become vital to my writing. As of late, I have become fascinated with the Fibonacci sequence and how often it appears in nature. Strongly influenced by both Bishop and Clifton, I recently finished my first manuscript, Whorl, which explores the spirals found in nature and within the feminine experience.

“Flight” was written as a nod to one of the many mysteries I read about during my childhood in the 1970s. A fan of Nancy Drew, I became obsessed by the disappearance of the Titanic, the Bermuda Triangle, Amelia Earhart—no library could hold enough books to quell my curiosity. Studying her more recently with my students long after Robert Ballard pinpointed the wreckage of the Titanic led me to write this poem. “Flight” uses one of Amelia’s nicknames from childhood, “Millie” and is written from the perspective of her younger sister, Grace, known to Amelia as “Pidge.” 

—Tara A. Elliott

Janis Harrington

Val d’Anniviers, Switzerland


I snowshoe in new moon darkness, 

panting, middle-aged muscles cramping, 

gloved hands gripping poles, last 

in the single file crunching 

up to the observatory. 


All that effort 

for the chicanery of light from the past 

presenting itself as tonight’s stars. 

A red shimmer tinsels the horizon. 

That, the guide says, is Milan 


and I imagine you 

still twenty-two, at Tazzo d’Oro

swirling sugar into a tiny espresso cup, 

your eyes on the beveled glass door, 

waiting for me to push it open 


                        and I will in a moment. 

Late, I’m hurrying to you, long hair loose, 

hugging a blue canvas book tote, 

dodging the piazza’s cooing pigeons, 

afraid I’ll miss you.


My poems are most often narrative, inspired by my own or imagined experiences. Memory is my primary creative wellspring, and I’ve always been drawn to stories. I spent a few childhood years on my family’s farm in central Indiana. Our telephone service was a party line shared with rural and town neighbors. I would pick up the receiver, sit on the step and listen as if attending a library story hour. 

I started writing poems nearly twenty years ago when I lived in Switzerland. Ellen Hinsey, an early teacher and mentor, helped me recognize the material for my first book: a verse memoir exploring secrets kept by three generations of my family. My second book, a sequence of narrative sonnets, was inspired by the months I stayed with my younger sister after her husband took his life. Reflecting on that time with her, the most we’d spent together since childhood, and shaping poems about it was a way to work through grief and attempt understanding. 


North Carolina, my home now, has a vibrant and nourishing poetry community. For eight years, I’ve participated in a biweekly critique group that has been meeting for over three decades. 


Two poetry collections I recently read and will keep nearby: The Last Time, a book of conversational, yet poignant and many-layered poems from Steve Cushman; and The Dead Are Everywhere Telling Us Things, by Sean Thomas Dougherty, which astonished me with its language, images and structure. 

—Janis Harrington

Paula J. Lambert


Making It Easier

Tired, still recovering—
though you tested negative a week ago—
you watch old episodes of Columbo.

Through the window behind the TV 
a single pink bud opens slowly   
on the tulip magnolia in the yard. 

Your eyes shift back and forth: 
the murderess, both lady lawyer 
and evil stepmother, pilots a plane 

in a silk scarf and yellow aviators. 
Columbo’s glass eye, you decide, 
is on the right; it never moves. 

He opens a suitcase full of money 
that proves the woman is guilty, 
can’t find a dollar to pay the waitress. 

Outside, the tree is full of buds, 
tiny, stubborn, pink fists, that one 
chiffon blossom opening, opening 

to the fading sun, fluttering, just a little, 
in the breeze. There’s no moral 
to the story—this one, I mean. Earlier, 

at the doctor’s office, the nurse 
lifted your breast to place the leads 
for the EKG. You lay on the table 

too tired to be embarrassed or to help. 
She lifts the breast again, places another 
lead all while smiling and telling you 

a story of her own. No villain. 
No hero. Just something that happened 
last week, something to make this feel 

ordinary, no big deal, not piloting 
a plane while looking stunning, 
not solving a crime no one else can. 

Just talking, making it easier for you 

to relax and to notice, later, a fist

unfolding, which is no small miracle.

A number of years ago, I attempted my first 30/30 Poetry Challenge—that is, writing thirty poems in thirty days to celebrate National Poetry Month. I was surprised to not only complete the challenge but to find it had actually been fairly easy, keeping me mindful of small occurrences throughout the day I might write about in the evening. I periodically continued with similar challenges, sometimes with friends, sometimes on my own, as I liked both the discipline and meditative qualities of the practice. When the pandemic started in March of 2020, I wrote nearly every day in earnest, culminating in a collection called How to See the World published in October of that year by Bottom Dog Press. I continue to fall into patterns of writing daily poems for no particular reason except that it helps me to process the world—and in recent years, we’ve had a mighty lot to process. Besides world events, I lost my father, several other close relatives, and I experienced a number of personal challenges generally. Whenever I begin to feel myself unmoored, coming back to close observation of the natural world never fails to help me feel anchored again, intimately and calmly connected to the earth and all who inhabit it. And it never fails to produce a poem.

—Paula J. Lambert

Xiaoly Li

On Marriage

            When the universe first opened, there were only Nüwa and her brother, in Kunlun…

            making a prayer “If Heaven sends us as husband and wife, let smoke gather; if not, let

            smoke disperse.” Then the smoke immediately gathered…

            — Li Rong, Zuyizhi, Tang Dynasty


it begins as    seeing 

through Webb's deep field

the thirteen billion years 

of deep space 

touching a nerve

dust into life

until becoming dust again

that is how two trees 

join rings

become one

the tree he & she

two centers collide into one life

around the pond two walk    seeing

one fish curving    rotating    dancing

look again    two as one

head to head or head to tail 

with a gust    one kite lifts

into the distance 

a hand anchors it

close to the earth

oppressive heat

waves the pond & the tree  

the smoke reappears

to gather    or disperse…



Our innate yearning for passion and partnership stretches back to the dawn of humanity, rooted in the mystical, cosmic, and earthly. 


Contemplating love's intricate dance with destiny and the enduring strength of human connections amidst Webb's deep space and time, I see two trees intertwined into a massive trunk, two fish harmoniously dancing as one.


The convergence of two distinct lives into a shared journey, a union that may harbor tensions between lofty aspirations and the gravity of reality. Looking back, it's like a burning fire. How can we clasp hands for as long as life when change, whether within us or in the sky, can decide our fate? 


My poetry draws inspiration from ancient Chinese verse, where vivid images and deep emotions are rooted in nature, and from English poetry, echoing Whitman's expansive connections and Dickinson's thought-provoking elegance. Diana Seuss' unflinching honesty also informs my work. 


For me, poetry is not merely a medium for self-expression and healing but a journey of words that delves deeper, reaching beyond the surface, beyond words. My website: 

—Xiaoly Li

Betsy Mars

For Joshua, Who Sings in Hospice


He says he has seen all kinds of things.

The dying don’t always welcome him.

He doesn’t take it personally. 


He is part musician, part comedian, all folksy banter:

How was your day, I asked my father.

24 hours, he answered. 


He goes to her, singing Hallelujah,

though she has no belief that will take her away 

to some gold-paved hereafter. 


She rouses and thanks him, agrees to one more song.

He searches his tablet for inspiration, pulls up a Dylan ballad 

about a ship coming in— begins to strum and sing 


while the oxygen machine pumps the beat. 

She sips thickened water as if at a club,

sails away on Dilaudid and his offering.



I, like others, write so I can understand what I think, to process my feelings. Spending nights with my stepmother for the two weeks prior to her death led to my being in a heightened state of awareness of the moment. I didn’t know that hospice offered this service until Joshua came through the door. We talked about what he encountered, from gratitude to rejection. After he left, I wondered what kind of person chooses to confront the end-of-life day after day, how they cope with all they witness and how they are received. I wanted to immortalize and explore the experience.


I have always gravitated towards poetry, apparently. My father reported that at age 5 (when we lived in Brazil) I wrote a poem in Portuguese on the occasion of the death of our cat. In addition to poetry and literature, music fed my love for words and rhythm. During my vegetarian, black wardrobe phase in high school (not much has changed!), I found Emily Dickinson, then discovered e.e. cummings who delighted me. At university I became enamored of John Donne, Robert Bly, and Erica Jong. My love for poetry is wide and deep. And all over the place. For lack of space and mental discipline, I don’t want to single anyone out, but I am constantly stunned by the work currently being written.


Also, like many, life waylaid me for a couple of decades, and though I wrote intermittently in various forms, I kept returning to poetry and finally had the courage (and sense of urgency as I aged and losses mounted) to immerse myself in reading, learning, and developing my craft. It has been an enchanted path these past ten years. Lastly, I have to put in a plug for the Oxford comma.

—Betsy Mars

Kirsten McAteer



It was early still, I waited till the light rose, just till

it crept up the bare legs of the alders across the 

channel, alders taking shape out of the dark,


the grebe dipping past with a splash. I ran out, the day

early still, all silver pigeon dust, low simmer

of fog, air cold enough to shock but not fog breath, 


my pace quickened, I let my breath move in time with 

my feet, as I circled the island, passing

a field of stubble the color of mushroom gills


and stems heaped in a market. And between the broken

decaying stalks a family of silent sandhill

cranes, nearly invisible in the dun-colored field, placed


their feet like hikers forging a stream on unsteady

river rock and snag. It was early still and I

was running, looping, wishing I had the strength


to once again round the entire island which

I did do, the week my father died, a half marathon.

I was younger then, and now it was early, and my breath 


kept time with my feet, as I swung to the right, and there 

on my right was a wide field, muddy from recent rains

with tufts of scraggly grass the green of discarded avocado


peels, in the not bright clouded winter light. A field where 

two cows, an enormous black angus and smaller red

calf, faced me - barely an arm’s length between us


over an unfenced ditch. My stomach lurched, their bulk

was electric with power so proximate. The calf broke away 

and ran, faster than I could, over the field, her tailed raised


on alert, a message to her mother, till she too turned 

and ran, owning the wide field between them.  

When I lost a child I was drawn each day for a week


to an urban petting zoo to visit

a small black cow – her black oil slick eyes

and rough tongue on my forearm a comfort.


But now I ran, as the calf and cow ran, black 

and red shapes retreating into the gray green morning, on this island

this particular moment in January, a woman, two cows, running.



“Cows” was started in January 2022 during the first residency of my MFA program. I was supposed to travel, but the residency was changed at the last moment to virtual due to a rise in COVID cases. At my husband’s urging, I still stepped away from my life and rented a little houseboat on Sauvie Island, near Portland, Oregon where I live. The island is special to me. I have so many memories of taking my son blueberry picking there in the summer, of walking along the beach and to the lighthouse with our now ancient dog – and now I have the memory of those ten days on my little, lovely houseboat; lighting fires and diving into poetry. 


 I’m a morning runner which helps me get out of my head and into my body and into my breath. In the poem, I am trying to capture a moving and breathing through space, a taking of everything in, and then an encounter – the power of which surprised me in the writing of the poem. As Jane Hirshfield (one of my heroes) writes in Ten Windows, “Every good work of art holds something that was not quite knowable before its own existence.” 


I tend to read deeply and broadly. I’m an early riser, and for my own sanity I stopped reading the news first thing in the morning a few years ago, and now sit with my coffee (while the rest of my household is still asleep), write in my notebook and read poetry. This fall the books that have meant the most to me are Jorie Graham’s earlier gorgeous collection Erosion, which is so infused with the body and the spirit, wind and light; and Jack Gilbert’s The Great Fires which says so much about all the permutations of love and of loss. I’ve also been asked by a press to contribute some book reviews, and am excited to read new work and support and celebrate other poets.

—Kirsten McAteer

Laurie Rosen

Some Days are Like This for Me Too––An Ars Poetica


A bank of windows faces 

south. Sweetness escapes 

peaches and plums ripening 

in a blue bowl


on a round oak table. 

A sultry silence   


by the thump      thump      thump 


of a paper wasp as it throws 

its black body against a window.

I open the French door, beckoning 

toward meandering meadow,


towering birch, pine, maple 

(gloriously green) 

but the insect persists–– 






My husband and I have owned a home in the Vermont Green Mountains for almost 35 years. A great deal of my writing is inspired by the walks and hikes we take in every season. North Hollow is where I am most creative.  


I spent over two decades on these solitary walks “writing in my head” and didn't actually start putting my thoughts down on paper until about 10 years ago, in my mid-fifties. Once I began I threw myself into workshops, salons and writing groups. Last summer as one of a small group of poets, I had the opportunity to study with the prolific writer Marge Piercy near her home on Cape Cod. It was a fruitful and exhilarating experience. 


Writing has helped me pay closer attention and to realize how much of my environment I have internalized. As I continue to grow as a poet, I strive towards writing that paints intimate portraits of my surroundings while tackling the important subjects of climate change, politics and aging. I don't have any answers but I’m driven to ask questions. 


—Laurie Rosen

Annette Sisson


An Ecology of Shells

                                    Broadkill Beach, Delaware




My mother lived in landlocked states, 

leery of oceans, barely a swimmer. 

Yet her bathroom was heaped with shells, 

some purchased at home décor 

stores, others bestowed by friends.

I photographed my toddler seated

in clover, wearing a diaper. My mother 

limned this picture on canvas, finished it

in oils but set him in the ocean’s surf.

She hung the painting low, piled

the bathtub’s rim with polished husks

that once held sea creatures,

accented now by pastel bath-soaps—

oysters, starfish, graceful spirals of whelks.




Horseshoe crabs clutter the evening

shore. The hollow shells might have 

detached to make way for larger coverings.

The ones with carcasses must have mated, 

buried the eggs, lingered on the beach 

too long. Slipper shells once 

bearing snails festoon the crabs’

dark helmets, crustaceans like gemstones.

Did the snails that mounted these rounded 

ships to breed outlast their triumph? 

As their pilot trundled to shore, clawing 

the sand embankment, could they know 

this striving to copulate would be the end?




Birds cluster at the salt marsh.

Boat-tailed grackles buzz and rattle. 

Sandpipers pluck insects from the shallows. 

Snowy egrets jostle toward a bed 

of fiddler crabs at the water’s edge. 

Unfazed, the males sidle, entice

females, brandish and tap their gleaming 

major claws, circadian rhythms 

calibrated to the ebb and flow of ocean tide.




A man drives a pickup onto the beach,

loads horseshoe crabs into the bed

until shells mound above the tailgate. 

An old woman saunters along 

the dunes, asks him why so many. 

I sell them for fish bait, like my father 

always did. She alludes to breeding  

season, questions the size of his haul. 

He stops work, slams the cab’s

door, seals the window tight as a clam.



The girl appears in front of my bench

on the dock—a teenager, autistic.

Open your hands, she commands. 

I cup them under her fist, wary of muck 

and slime. She waits, face blank 

as sand until our hands line up, 

nods, drops a small gray shell, 

scurries off, returns with a second, 

iridescent, places it in my palm 

without touching my skin. She fades 

into pastiche—bright towels, tackle

boxes, rods and reels, waves, foam. 



Since I could read, I have loved poetry. As a poetry reader and literature professor, I am influenced by more poets than I can say. Even so, I am also inspired by prose writers who address the earth and humanity’s relationship to it—authors such as Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Barbara Kingsolver, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and others. 


Thanks to these writers, I have become deeply interested in relationships among creatures—and between creatures and the plants, seasons, tide, temperature, winds, etc. that define their environments. More specifically, I’m amazed by how they co-exist to create and sustain life. (Humans, who tend to see themselves as separate but are not, sometimes fit into but often disrupt ecosystems.) 


These various strands of life result in a system that functions harmoniously even though each element playing its part is aware only of itself and the ones it depends on throughout its life cycle. The result is beautiful, mysterious, and transcendent. The whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts.


In poetry I am drawn to place, nature, images, and the music of language. I often explore various strands of life or experience that, when combined or juxtaposed, suggest larger possibilities. What may seem at first to be disjunctive might connect, might be part of a larger whole when the scope of our vision or thinking is enlarged.


In “An Ecology of Shells,” I sought to capture experiences and relationships with shells, hoping through these short sections and vignettes to invite readers to imagine what a whole, healthy, and life-sustaining seaside ecology might entail; ideally, the audience’s acts of imagination would increase their desire to preserve this life system.

Annette Sisson

Connie Soper

Learning to Meditate at the Shambhala Center


There’s nothing to it, the teacher says,

           nothing being the point. Just empty

                     your mind of its chatter; 

embrace the void. Some people imagine those 

           wayward thoughts as balloons

                     to nudge and float away.


I erase them, as from a school blackboard

           at the end of a lesson:

                     those forgotten fractions, list of state capitals.  


Gone in a poof. Chalk dust.

           And if my mind should wander

                     to an old memory, a found coin


tarnished on one side, shiny

           on the other, I tune in to a white noise.

                      The kind making no sound, that cushions the moment.


Thoughts nothing more than an accumulation

           waiting to be released into a thousand breaths: 

                     A letter I meant to write. The letter I did write.


That’s all. Begin again. Exhale from the core. 

           Every day, more to let go of. 

                     That’s why it’s called a practice.


This is my first publication in Quartet, though not my first attempt. I read through several past issues to get a sense of other artist statements, and was struck by how many writers have returned to poetry after a long hiatus. This happened to me, too! After not writing for over twenty years, I came back to it about five years ago, and in my 70s had my first full-length book of poetry published, A Story Interrupted. As the title implies, some poems in this collection were written many years ago, complemented by more recent pieces inspired by my native terrain of Oregon, as well as travels to other places. 


Many of my poems are inspired by memory of places and people no longer in my life. During the past year, I have experienced a rather profound melancholy having to do with lost youth, something I can do absolutely nothing about! This summer, I decided to learn how to meditate with the purpose of becoming more fully present in the here and now. This proved also to be an opportunity for me to try something new, a bit outside my comfort zone. I can say for sure that I have at least embraced the intent. And, I wrote this poem. 


I enjoy anthologies with contributions from many poets, among them The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy, edited by John Brehm, and The Art of Losing, edited by Kevin Young. Lately, I’ve been re-reading Louise Glück. I am always drawn to the work of Jack Gilbert, Mary Oliver, and Ada Limón. 


—Connie Soper

Deborah Tobola

Ode to My Body


My brain’s still fuzzy sometimes, my bones are weak

and my skin—a terrain of surgical tracks

and faults. Doctors and nurses don’t care about

the wreck left behind


in pursuit of the cure. They don’t care about

my bald head, psycho insomnia, bone pain.

They’re not trying to save me, but my body.

Of course. But I must


take my body back, reclaim it, at least one

square inch. So to transform the lumpy scar from

my botched chemo port surgery, I intend

to get a tattoo


of a bee (my name means bee in Hebrew) just

above my right clavicle. Maybe I’ll wear

a low-cut gown to my high school reunion,

create a small buzz.



My favorite poet is Elizabeth Bishop and among the poems I love is “One Art.” This poem certainly speaks to the time that I was caring for my mother in hospice in our home. During that time, I was diagnosed with advanced-stage ovarian cancer and underwent surgery and chemo. I am working on a manuscript, Pas de Deux, which explores our parallel journeys. It has been almost one year since my mother died, and eight months since my last chemo infusion.


In one of my poetry groups, we take turns choosing themes. When one of our members asked us to write about our bodies, I resisted. I was trying to escape my body! But I’m happy that I forged ahead, using my new favorite form, the Sapphic ode (quatrains with three 11-syllable lines, followed by a 5-syllable line). Perhaps it appeals to me because I was born at 5:51 pm on November 11, 1955. 


Recently I went to the Czech Republic, fulfilling a lifelong dream to visit one of my ancestral homelands and meet family. During the trip, I read “Ode to My Body” at Prague’s Globe Bookstore and Café open mic, along with two other poems from Pas de Deux. And I sat briefly at the table permanently reserved for Václav Havel at Café Slavia, a favorite of Prague’s literati!

—Deborah Tobola

Lucinda Trew

(after the funeral) the moths come without reservation


they converge like clockwork, a fluttering 

raucous of soft – positive phototaxis – 

’round the disco ball of a humming 

60-watt bulb


ultrasonic ears tuned to griefless

frequency – no one’s whispered 

the news, shrouded the windows

turned out the lights 


and so their incandescent dance 

continues, uninterrupted, no pause 

in the courtship, the lust-to-dust 

swirl beneath a makeshift moon 


that doesn’t mourn or dim, offer prayers 

or tears, just the beacon of summer 

and porch and the wonderous eclipse 

of moths on the wing



For me, poetry is a lifeboat – a way of staying afloat, holding onto kindred souls, and finding a way to shore. It is sanctuary, but also movement, music, the pull of an oar, the surge of sea and storm. I think of Mary Oliver observing that “Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” I am moved most often by image and sound, and delight in discovering beauty in the gray corners and hard spaces of life. Perhaps that is why this poem is about moths rather than butterflies, and the liminal pause of a porch, where the internal and external worlds meet. I am grateful for the voices and spirit of poets Louise Glück, Ada Limón, Jane Hirshfield, Walt Whitman, Ted Kooser, Jane Kenyon, Ross Gay, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Adrienne Rich – and to all who write and read and turn down the corners of pages that promise safe passage.

—Lucinda Trew

Rebekah Wolman

September Morn

            (oil on canvas, Paul Émile Chabas, 1911) 


One late August day our paths crossed in the wood yard,

mine from the outhouse, his from some morning ramble

in his woods. In that round clearing outside the dark shed

stacked with kindling, stove wood, and fireplace logs

for cold rainy days, our work boots, mine handed down

from my older brother, scuffed the thick carpet of bark

and chips. It would behoove you to be strong, he said.

People look at a big woman and expect her to be strong.

Now your Aunt Mary—my great-aunt, his wife's sister—

she was a big woman but she couldn't lift a sack of groceries

into the motorboat without breaking the eggs.


I think I'm pretty strong, I answer. I don't say

and I'm not so big. At camp a few summers before,

I sat in the stern of the rowboat waiting for my turn

to row, admiring my own tanned shoulders.

Before this trip north to my grandfather's cabin

in Ontario, I argued with my mother

about not wearing a bra under my T-shirts

and tank tops. I don't remember who won.

I was gathering the courage to claim

the wedge and sledge hammer and take my turn

at boys' and men's work splitting stove-lengths. 


Later, after lunch and the nap he took

lying side by side with my grandmother

on the worn planks of the sun-warmed stoop,

splintery shims balanced on the bridges of their noses

to keep out the light, he crossed the screened porch

where I sat reading for hours and looking down

at the slow boat traffic on the narrow lake.

When I was a boy, he said, my father rented a houseboat

for a month one spring to go fishing in Florida.

I took a box of books along and all I did was sit on the deck and read.

I missed all that nature I could have learned about.

And then he walked back out into his woods.


Summer ending, the first of September, I met him

on the path up to the cabin from my morning swim.

I'd strip in the boathouse, wrap myself in a towel 

and slip my nakedness out of it into the lake

at the very end of the dock, then dry off 

and put my nightgown back on to walk up the hill

where my brothers were bringing in the firewood

for breakfast. September morn, he said. 

That's all I remember. Now I know it's a painting 

of a woman, naked, standing ankle deep

just feet from shore in the water of a pond or lake.


Bent slightly forward at her hips, she holds one arm

across her body just beneath her small taut breasts 

and barely grasps the elbow of the other arm

which stretches down to touch her leg above her knee,

covering all but the slightest darkness between her legs.

The woman and the water and the sky, the reflection

of the distant rounded hills—all are bathed

in golden light. The painting, from Paris, scandalized

the prudish Midwesterners of my grandfather's youth

when it first appeared here but I knew none of that.

Later, in the woodyard, he stood and watched

as I split thick chunks of log into neat halves, 

then quarters, for the kitchen stove.

Now that's all right, he said.

Driving me home from our first date 23 years ago, my husband-to-be asked me "What are you reading?" and responded to my answer, whatever it was, with another question. "What else are you reading?" He had me figured out. Emily Stoddard says it all in this line from the poem "More & More" in her collection Divination with a Human Heart Attached (Game Over Books, 2023): "The trouble is / everything calls to me."


I dread the moment during workshop introductions when we're asked to name our favorite poets.  I might as well have tried to name a favorite student during my 22 years as a middle-school principal. The shelf of my nightstand holds the collected poems of Marie Ponsot, Arthur Sze, Ruth Stone, and Lucille Clifton. Charles Wright's poems lean up against Emerson's letters. Within toe-stubbing distance from my side of the bed is a felt bin heaped with slim volumes I've brought up from the downstairs shelves, recent and not-so-recent issues of journals, and whatever I currently have on loan from the library, that browser's paradise. 


As I deepen and focus my writing practice, I'd like to try a Ponsot tritina, its three repeated end words ringing crystalline across three three-line stanzas. I'd like to attend to the world with Sze's patient, meditative eye and require no more of my poems than the reverent naming of unexpected correspondences. I invite Stone's poems to help unleash my imagination. I've recently learned that Clifton lived three doors away from my Jewish grandparents in Baltimore from 1968 to 1980, the very years I was beginning to read and write poetry. Might I imagine them as neighbors in a poem as brave and blindingly incisive as one of Clifton's? So much awaits to be tried, to be read and to be written.

—Rebekah Wolman

Editor's Choice

Laurie Rosen
Annette Sisson
Connie Soper
Deborah Tobola
Lucinda Trew
Rebekah Wolman
Editor's Choice
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D. Dina Friedman
Sarah Dickenson Snyder
Tina Williams

All Editor's Choice poems from Winter Issue 2024 through Spring/Summer Issue 2025 will automatically be entered in our single-poem contest. Winner to be announced in Fall Issue 2025.

                                                                           ~ ~ ~

•  I immediately grabbed my straw broom and started sweeping the floor, listening. A poem should do that –             create reaction. The sounds and the leaping in Friedman’s poem are wonderful.

    —Linda Blaskey

D. Dina Friedman



           (after "Bratislava" by Mary Jo Salter)


So, I’m still alive and now I’m in Nebraska.

There’s a national park with sand dunes, not what I expected


but we got waylaid at some other park 

that had a sign pointing off the highway, and started walking


on a trail uphill. I didn’t expect

hills in Nebraska. I’m wondering if there might be camels,


not that I’d expect it. In Morocco, our tour guide

said, “Here are our camels,” and pointed 


to a row of taxis parked in a lot. It was funny,

all this expectation. I once read a poem


that said “Nebraska” was the sound a broom made

sweeping a flat floor. Maybe that’s why I thought


there were no hills in Nebraska. Anyway, 

the top of the hill was covered


with pink and lilac flowers.

I didn’t expect that. Even the brown grasses


more mauve and ochre than drab. 

Maybe the people of Nebraska


are also not what I expect. 

We’re finally at the national park,


and they won’t sell us the senior pass. We’re too young,

the boy tells us. He’s pleasant and bland with buzzed blond hair.


Kind of what I expected. I don’t feel young, I feel old.

Old enough to think of a hill in Nebraska


as a challenge. But I liked that Nebraska hill

with the flowers at the top,


the open view to grasslands, waving golden.

The sky was cloudless. I didn’t expect that


because my heart feels so cloudy whenever I read the news,

and it seems like there’s nothing I can do but kvetch,


or forget, and try to climb hills. I was tired of kvetching

so I went to Nebraska, feeling flat and old,


even though I wasn’t old enough for the parks pass.

I could pick the flowers. At least I’m still alive.



I’m a big fan of prompts, so when given the chance to write a poem mirroring Mary Jo Salter’s "Bratislava", I grabbed onto the challenge. I loved Salter’s use of repetition, and the subtle humor, and small skewed details that combine to create a suggestion of a place that may seem ordinary to an insider but bizarre to someone from the outside looking in. Writing poetry often offers both permission and opportunity to look from a similar skewed perspective. As Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” That’s what I tried to do in this poem, and what I often try to do when writing—using prompts to let my subconscious guide me to the hidden nooks and crannies where my conscious mind won’t fit, and then later evoking my conscious mind to wrestle these musings into a pleasing musical clarity by cutting out chaff and paying close attention to the sounds and nuances of the words I choose. 

—D. Dina Friedman

  This poem surprised me. I love that Eve has her own lands to find and words to write. Cut off from the Maker's     words, she turns to a new language, one written in the Earth itself. The poem's stately pace and careful sensory     details also drew me in.

    Heather L. Davis

Sarah Dickenson Snyder



EVE HAS NEVER EATEN MEAT                                               


She prefers to touch the softness 

of a cow’s skin & look in

those large, dark eyes. 


Eve's first blood was her own.

The Maker gave her what she never 

emerged from: fallopian tubes & a womb.


In the cool heaven of evening, 

the Maker’s voice

before the forbidding.


Now borders she can no longer 

cross & fertile lands for her to find. 

No more words from the Maker.


No more, Follow.

What about a wax-sealed letter? 

A language she knows? 


A world edged in thunder & turbulence 

with those stars & comets & one moon 

in the firmament. 


Her heart weathered & hungry. 

She moves through the muddied riverbeds, 

finds wild onions & mushrooms. 


She eats what grows from the earth, 

picks up a stone, a small, smooth heaviness 

to hold. When she rests, she finds a stick, 


draws spirals in the clay or sand, 

messages to no one. Maybe she needs 

to write. She reads the trees.



I am amazed and entertained and then amazed again by poets, poets who come to the page with seeming confidence and creativity, a poet like Anne Carson. I came across her poem “Short Talk on Pain” recently. How detailed and fragmented and flowing into funny it is. And e.e. cummings who plays with language and juxtaposition and writes things like “the ears of my ears” and “the eyes of my eyes” or Jane Hirshfield's umeboshi in her tight piece, “All the Difficult Hours and Minutes.” Such confidence. Such creativity. Every day I am amazed and inspired by poets.


—Sarah Dickenson Snyder

   Tina Williams shows what writing off the subject can do—a shift in perspective that stuns as it                             clarifies.

      —Jane C. Miller


Tina Williams

Birdwatching on the Border


That morning we’d spotted 

an Altamira Oriole

and Great Kiskadees 

and had turned east 

in hopes of Anhingas

when we saw it, 

a wall of steel thrust 

thirty feet high

from the late-summer scrub.


We pulled over to look longer.

We let the rusting weight of it sink in.

We let the shame and stink of it 

settle on our shoulders.

The next day we drove home.


In the treetops

along the borderlands,

Plain Chachalacas

seek food and refuge.

Not built for flight,

hunted on both banks, 

they run. 


But sometimes, the guide says,

they burst quiet on the air.

Sometimes, come evening,

they scream their name.



Poetry, for me, makes sense of the world. It helps me see and create meaning. It teaches me to look for and make connections. It shows me how to pay attention to what’s important, which is all of it. After decades of doing a lot of thinking about writing poetry again, I took one class and then another and realized with each poem I studied and wrote what a companion poetry is for me and how much I’d missed its unique energy in my life.


I look to poets Galway Kinnell and Naomi Shihab Nye for guidance on being a good human, to Marie Howe for inspiration, to Tony Hoagland for honesty, to James Dickey for lessons in leaving a reader haunted, and to David Whyte in the hope I might someday drop onto a page a thought that vibrates in others as much as “even / the gods speak of God” does in me.

—Tina Williams

What We're Reading

What We're Reading

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We like that our contributors share what they are reading in their artist statements,

so we are returning the favor. Here is a list of what we are reading.

Heather L. Davis

Perpetual Motion Machines - Eliot White

Death Prefers the Minor Keys - Sean Thomas Dougherty

Dear God. Dear Bones. Dear Yellow. - Noon Hindi

Linda Blaskey

Iggy Horse - Michael Earl Craig

Sacraments of Desire - Linda Gregg

A New Hunger - Laure-Anne Bosselaar

Jane C, Miller

After the War for Independence - Gerry LaFemina

Sinners Welcome - Mary Karr

Otherwise - Jane Kenyon

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