August 30, 2022

The In-Between Time

Hello dear friends, seekers, and imaginers,

I write on the cusp of a new season. Each day, the Earth tilts farther from the sun as the months of waning light approach. September has always brought mixed feelings: excitement for the year ahead tinged with sadness for the loss of sunshine and blossom.

Melancholia is in the air. Hope should have no preferred season, and yet I’m aware how seeing the bright orange flutter of a Monarch in July inspires a different feeling than spotting a Monarch in late August. Its beauty and limited lifespan evoke my own brief temporality. Most poets, myself included, struggle to articulate the ephemeral nature of all things, the painful aspects of life comingled with the beautiful. Readers of my blog posts on Psychology Today may recognize this as a frequent theme.

The great James Baldwin suggested we cannot bear much reality, and these days it’s hard to ignore our shocking capacity for denial. Cruelty, brutality, and megawatt greed have colonized current reality, but this is not to disregard the generous and generative acts of diverse peoples: the firefighters, relief workers, whale rescuers, and tree planters of the world.

I’m reminded of a story about Rilke and Freud, both men concerned with the problem of transience. On a mountain stroll, they come across a patch of wildflowers. Freud remarks about their beauty and value, but for the young poet Rilke, their glory cannot be separated from a despairing awareness of their brevity and loss.

I am more Rilke than Freud. In my writing, I will probably continue to explore “those twin spectaculars, love and grief,” as I call them in my poem “Before Magdalene, Mary Chosen for Love.” Years of radical uncertainty have made me ever more aware of how fragile the web is that holds our world together. But I’ve also discovered the life-enhancing necessity of friendship and community.

I feel very lucky to have a new book of poetry, M, to serve as a vehicle for us to gather in conversation about such a variety of subjects including family conflict and how desire, struggle, and loss are the spiritual path to transformation. I hope you’ll be able to join the conversation sometime in September.  I’m grateful especially to have the support of indie bookstores, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and other arts organizations like the Wurlitzer Foundation and Write On who have graciously offered me opportunities to read.

Friendship and community are why I am creating new formats for readings that promote interaction with the folks who attend. I like so much what our new poet laureate, Ada Limon, says about poetry, that it’s “a place where we can go to break open.” We are burdened, grieving creatures, she says, and we also joyous and playful. I believe language is a place where we can meet.

In the words of an ancient Aztec songster:

only we come to make songs on earth
to know each other in the place of drums
you are a friend!
nothing is so far away
and nothing breaks
(from Nothing in the Word: Versions of Aztec Poetry. Translation by Stephen Berg)

I’m lucky to have two talented women join me for my upcoming September events.

M: A Poetry Reading and Conversation with DALE KUSHNER and RACHEL WERNER  on September 8 at 6:00 PM CDT 7:00 PM EDT – an online event

Rachel Werner will be facilitating the online reading sponsored by A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN. Rachel is an accomplished writer of poetry and children’s books, as well as the author of a new cookbook. She’ll bring to our discussion her lively intellect and welcoming presence.

Reading and Conversation with Dale M. Kushner on September 24 at 10 AM CDT – in person at Write On Door County in Fish Creek, WI

Estella Lauter will be interviewing me at the in-person event on September 24. She is a professor emerita at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. Her book Women as Mythmakers: Poetry and Visual Art by Twentieth Century Women, and her scholarly research on feminine archetypes have been seminal resources for my own work. We will have a lot to talk about!  Dr. Lauter is the former Poet Laureate of Door County, Wisconsin.

Even if poetry feels like foreign territory, I encourage you to enter the gates and join in. Poetry sings of our wounds and wisdoms, our mourning and jubilation. A poem that touches the deeply human in us flashes through our bodies, a healing balm.

I hope you will find time to join us at one of these upcoming events. You can read more about M, including where to buy a copy, on my website.

If you know anyone else who might enjoy these newsletters, they can subscribe at any time at this link, where you can also view previous newsletters. I’d also love to hear from you if there’s something you’ve read in my work you’d like to comment on, or if there is anything related to the creative life you’d like to suggest I explore in an upcoming message. You can reach me by replying to this email or through my Contact Page.

Fondly, and with care,


Top image: Nightfall, Madison, Wisconsin by Burt Kushner. Courtesy of Burt Kushner