jackie langetieg | one book

15 01 2010

PoetryDispatch No. 308 | January 15, 2010


Jackie Langetieg

From age 6 when I punched letter by letter type into a neighborhood newspaper, I have written something—In my teens through an understanding English teacher who looked beyond the surface of my tough-girl attitude and acts, I entered into the joy of writing—both prose and poetry. My first book of sorts was done then—probably filled with mash notes to some boy or other but the words wanted to have their proper place. Then came the alcoholic years—mostly blurs but yet poems by the cartload from such phrases as the soul cried tears of blood to bucolic ramblings, usually ending with holes in the paper from frustrated pounding of pen or pencil. For years when I worked in State Government, I penned anonymous responses to bureaucratic bullshit memos about how to turn on the radiators or to keep the blinds drawn in place of air conditioning. I had a following; people enjoyed my sense of things. Two marriages and two children softened my edges as did the passing years, but still I was seeking the inner smile of writing accomplishment—The Book.

Enter The Clearing [Ellison Bay, Wisconsin]: I was looking for a quiet place to “find myself” in some safe place mentally and the music week was full—so the writers’ week it was. Every writing theme and effort I’d had became a legitimate benchmark on my journey. I began to tell people I wrote poetry, put work into little books so I could carry it around and savor it. What a high! Over the next 15 years, I wrote all the time and admitted to it; three books and two that I was working on, all lovingly typed, copied and stapled together with a cover carrying My Name.

It would be difficult to select a favorite book from those I’ve put together over the years—beginning in 1984 and having one I’m working on now. All these little books say something different about me—my first stumbling steps in writing poems; coming out of the poetry closet in the 1990’s and joining a group.

I tried sending poems out to little magazines as everyone seemed to be doing, but I was less than successful and each rejection was a death knell for that poem—I had no confidence at all when it came to accepting rejection or criticism. Reading helped; I began to enjoy the company of poets and began to read my work out loud at coffee houses. A great venue for being told I had a great poem, or many times, “a great reading voice”!

The real book, the book that made me a poet was White Shoulders. A real press published work, with credits and acknowledgements. This was my truth—I’d begun it as an exercise in different genre—a transition between poetry and prose. All my adult life, I’d given my mother the back-handed remarks that made me who I became—the teen who acted out, got drunk, the failure at marriage and alcoholic—all her fault. Suddenly, it became important to me to give her the chance to respond to my accusations—difficult because she had died 12 years earlier. So began the book, originally titled, Mother’s House. It is a lovely book with a beautiful sensitive cover and a content of absolute honesty, much of which tears away the years of excuses I made for my screwed up life. It was cathartic writing it, editing it and finally seeing it as a finished beautiful product, and I had begun to hear her voice explaining to me what her life was about during those years—I’d write something bitchy, and she’d respond by telling me of her fears and life as a single parent; this was a revelation to me and my truth began with the telling of that story, which became White Shoulders, a conversation between a daughter and her deceased mother, published beautifully by Cross+Roads Press. At last I had a legitimate book of my own to hold close and share with others, and the absolute thrill when I first saw it come alive through the brown paper packaging will remain as the most exciting and emotional event of my life.

The important part of my writing is keeping the truth of the poem and my own dignity in the writing. I’ve never considered myself anything but an individualist, feminism is grand for those who have carried me along, but I’ve had my hands full staying true to me. I’m a decade past the baby-boomers and have had to bear the guilt of the fifties ingrained in the back of my left knee whenever I’ve tried to be a woman of the times—usually overdone with my lack of perspective. I’ve recovered from most negatives in my younger years, abuse, alcohol, tobacco, divorces. I live alone now and enjoy every minute of it—and it’s safer than getting involved with the old people-pleasing games of my youth.

There have been two more books since White Shoulders, and one: Just What in Hell is a Stage of Grief? is my story of losing my 33 year old son to booze and sleep apnea. It was important to me to have a written dialogue with him and myself about the days following his death and I’m very pleased with the book; it’s not everyone’s choice for reading, but the purpose has been completed. I hope to complete another book within this year and perhaps if I write again about The Book, it may be about one to come—but for now White Shoulders defines my library and influences each poem I write with truth.


  • Bar Code, Little Eagle Press 2008, and Peninsula Review, Sister Bay, WI 1989: “The Staring Contest”
  • Rosebud, Cambridge, WI, Issue #1, Winter 1993-94: “Choices”
  • Women’s Recovery Journal (?), 1993: “My Name is Jackie”
  • Cats’ Meow, Maine Rhode Publ. Woolwich, ME 1996: “Business Venture”
  • Tasty Morsels, Lonesome Traveller Publ. Madison, WI, 1996: “Camellia” and “Role Model”
  • Poetry of Cold, Home Brew Press, Fish Creek, WI, 1997: “Darkness of an Early Morning Snow”
  • Detours II, Lonesome Traveller Pub.1998: “The Shoji Screen”
  • Coming Home to Door, Home Brew Press 1998: “The Dinner Party”


  • Three Legged Cats and Other Tales, Wheels Press, 1989
  • Private Thoughts, Wheels Press 1991
  • Coming of Age, Wheels Press, 1992
  • White Shoulders, Cross+Roads Press, Ellison Bay, WI 2000
  • Just What in the Hell is a Stage of Grief, Ghost Horse Press, Verona, 2008
  • Confetti in a Silent City, Ghost Horse Press, 2008


  • 1988: Joyce Web Poetry Award, Wisconsin Regional Writers Assoc. “Shoes”
  • 1997: First Place Poem, Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Trophy Award. “Living Separated from Him”
  • 1999: First Place Poem, Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Sciences & Letters Annual Award, “Tai Chi in Four Movements”
  • 2000: Jade Ring, Wisconsin Regional Writers Assoc. “Casals’ Cello”


  • Barefoot Grass Journal, Vol 1, Fall/Winter 1997: “Stone,” “Invitations,” “Generations”
  • Writing Across the Boundaries Between Poetry & Prose, Lonesome Traveller Pub., 1999: “Mother’s House”
  • Reflections on the Train, Detours: Poems of Travel by Land, Sea, Air and Mind, Lonesome Traveller Pub., 1997; RobinChapman’s Blog, http://robinchapmanspoemaday.blogspot.com/ 2006: “Reflections on the Train”
  • Poems of Love, Lonesome Traveller Publishing,1998: “If I Were to Take a Lover”
  • Wisconsin Academy Review: Summer, 2004: and RobinChapman’s Blog, 2006: “Father Writes to Mother From California”
  • Wisconsin Academy Review: Spring, 2003 and RobinChapman’s Blog 2006 “Letter to My Daughter”
  • Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Sciences & Letters: Spring, 1999 and Taijiquan Journal, Minneapolis, 2004: “Tai Chi in 4 Movements”
  • Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Sciences & Letters: 1996 “The X-Ray”
  • Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Sciences & Letters: 1998 “Ablutions”
  • Word of Mouth, May 1993 & Spondee Internet: http://www.spondee.net/“Jason at 23, White, Adriatic Sea”
  • Poetry Dispatch #118 Norbert Blei, Ed Internet 2007, https://poetrydispatch.wordpress.com/ “Once Again I Fail To” and Excerpt from White Shoulders
  • 100 Words, University of Iowa, ** “Second Sight”
  • Midland Review, University of Oklahoma, May 1993 and Spondee Internet Site “Jewels”
  • Looking Out the Window, The Writers’ Place, 1994 and Spondee Internet Site “In the Party Room at the Nursing Home”
  • Peace Project, 2003 Exhibit: “Women Drumming”
  • Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Calendars 1991-2010: Various poems –
  • Slender Thread, Little Eagle Press, Bailey’s Harbor, WI 2008: “Universal Sorrow on City Street,” “Old Woman Lays Husband to Rest,” “Paper Pink Iris”
  • Tiger’s Eye, Tiger’s Eye Press, Oregon, 2008: “Old Woman Lays Husband to Rest”
  • The Aurorean, Encircle Publications, ME, Vol. XIII 2008-2009: “Seasons”
  • Silk Road, Pacific University, Oregon, Vol. 3 Spring 2008: “Pentimento II”
  • Chaffin Journal, East Kentucky University, 2009: “Aneurism”


  • Volunteer and President of Board of Directors for The Writers’ Place, Madison, WI 1996-98
  • Editor, Looking Out the Window, The Writers’ Place First Annual Literary Anthology, Madison 1995
  • Co-Editor, 2004 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Annual Calendar

alice d’alessio | days we are given

22 12 2009

PoetryDispatch No. 305 | December 23, 2009

Alice D’Alessio

Days We Are Given

DAYS WE ARE GIVEN is Alice D’Alessio’s third book of poetry, an “Earth’s Daughters” chapbook contest winner for 2009, and a winner in every way a poet makes sense and beauty of her life through words.

I’m proud to say that Cross+Roads Press published her first major collection in 2004, A BLESSING OF TREES, which won the Council for Wisconsin Writers Posner Prize for poetry. It was an immediate bestseller, admired for the delicacy and depth of Alice’s poems, the sheer beauty of the book’s layout and design.

I’m proud to say as well that Alice is one of those Cross+Roads Press writers who moved beyond ‘first publication’ with Cross+Roads to test the waters elsewhere with new manuscripts—and continued success. A new collection of hers, Conversations with Thoreau, has been contracted for with Parallel Press, UW Madison.

DAYS WE ARE GIVEN continues to explore the poet’s personal history, joy, pain, revelation…the coming to terms with time, relationships…the comfort in those days we are given. Here is a poet who loves the play of words—and plays them well, perfect pitch, the harmony of past and present.

The book is divided into three sections: “Things Left Unsaid,” “Infinite Discords.” and “Days we Are Given” Each a book unto itself. All together…where the harmony comes through. –Norbert Blei


for my mother

You broke my heart, you said.
And then you died

leaving the two raw pieces in my lap,
like weeping pomegranate.

Because I tasted the seeds and knew
the underworld? Because your meadows

couldn’t hold me, and beyond the fence
I found a wilderness more tempting

than you – virtuous as a nun –
could comprehend? Was I to blame?

You loved the idea of my life: dinners for eight,
bright kids, bright flowers, filling your dreams

of domesticity. Was it wrong
to hide frayed edges as they pulled apart?

Only daughter of a lonely mother
I was doomed to disappoint

as every seed you planted escaped
your nurturing to flaunt

its own wild weedy dance.
Look, the marsh marigolds we treasured

have disappeared this spring
gobbled by deer, overrun by reed canary grass
but still the redwing blackbird sings.


All down the long, dark halls they sit and wait
like faded pansies in July. Help me, they say,
the voice a prayer that comes too late:
help me to not grow old or take me away.
My parents are here, where they never meant to be,
hothoused, like all the rest. Reduced from book
to page to paragraph, their memories consigned to me;
their vision gone. How short a time it took

to steal their worth – my mother’s clever hands,
my father’s love of books. He copied and reread
the words of Freud, Carnegie, Franklin, tried to understand
their secrets; wanted poems to rhyme – how else, he said,
can they be poems? Daddy, this is for you.
You gave me the words. Arrangement, I can do.


A narrow street, all in confusion,
the children scrabbling back and forth
on muddy cobblestones,
and you in tweeds, impeccable.
I say, we need to talk.
We always needed to talk
and never did, back then –
our words
boxed in like inventory
along the shelves of gritted teeth.

I drag the chairs, position them just so.
Cheap lawn chairs, they move easily,
scrape the cobblestones
like metal fingers.
Too close, too far away. I keep moving them –
facing each other? Side by side?
An inch or two this way, and that. As if
all the world depends on how we sit.
As if we are Palestinian and Jew
forging impossible treaties,
and not two nice people who never learned to talk,
who let the silence go on widening
to a chasm no words could ever bridge.


When I tell you about my dream,
I think you’ll understand:

we are standing on a pebbly shore –
last summer’s shore – at sunset
and the waves keep rolling toward us
with crests of coppery fire,
and troughs, deep indigo.
In the dream, they lose brightness
as they pile up at our feet
in thick translucent folds –
rise to our ankles, knees,
to our waists. I know we will drown soon.

You watch calmly and say,
that’s how it is. I scream
and try to run, but cant move,
my feet buried in sticky muck
as the dream unravels.

See? I say.

But you don’t see, because you don’t dream.
And you tell me again
in that off-handed way,
you’re crazy, you know.
And anyhow
, you say,
you didn’t drown, did you?


and yet, we make up shopping lists,
schedule physical eighteen months from now,
go on the Net to scout resorts
for winter getaway, look at map of Italy
and say the soft names yet again.

Buy membership at fitness center,
for three years of pedaling, pumping iron;
plant trees for the next century, pausing
from time to time with sudden gasp,
as if a cold chill lapped our ankles.

We sign papers that promise
long term care, mark the calendar
for lunch in trendy pub
where, benched and boothed in hum
and chatter, we study laminated menus,

weigh the merits of gorgonzola pasta
as if our lives hung in the balance
as if the sheer number of decisions,
stacked like sandbags, will hold it at bay –
the silent tsunami gathering force in the rearview mirror.


How we dug in fifteen logs for steps
to carry us up the back hill
to the farmer s fence,
named it Sunset Boulevard;
put a bench there facing west;
six startled cow-eyes looking back
like, What?

How we tried to make a prairie –
burning, lugging eighteen buckets of seed
and flinging in wide arcs till we ached
and dropped exhausted on the deck,
and watched five crows
pick out their favorites. How on our knees
we cheered the ruddy clumps of bluestem,
the first three stalks of Indian Plantain,
Compass Plant. It takes a thousand years
to make a prairie, but we could tell ourselves
this was the start.

How we watch some hundred billion stars
slide left to right each night
while coyotes wail off-key
and bats dip and swoop
in their nightly smorgasbord.

We’ll be old here, perhaps next year,
and maybe the world will fracture –
sluff away under its sorrows –
but you and I have counted these moments,
balanced the tally, and called ourselves rich.

Editor’s Note: DAYS WE ARE GIVEN is available directly from the author, 3418 Valley Creek Circle, Middleton, WI 53562, $8.00 plus $2.00 for shipping and handling. The book is also available from Earth’s Daughters, P.O. Box 61, Central Park Station, Buffalo, New York, 14215. Website Earth’sDaughters.org.