Category Archives: Projects

After the Black Crow Comes to Take Me Away, I Compose These Lines


Artwork by Mary Winifred Hood Schwaner


Note: This poem is not a translation but was created by free-associating with the traditional Chinese characters found one of Mei Yao-ch'en's last poems, written over 960 years ago. What's below is more a round of poetic archaeology--like digging up the characters that made up the poem but not knowing how they fit together, and piecing together something entirely different from them. I hope to actually translate this poem properly one day soon, but thought I would share this curious first stage of the work with you. ----JS

After The Black Spirit Comes to Take Me Away, I Compose These Lines

Dark winged spirit, in the olden days even I had compassion for you! I’d tell folks
who’d just as soon spit on you and curse you if fate came their way on your wings

that Oh! the hour could not contain you, you’d overturn your own nest to shoot out
like sound from a plucked string, even to banishment from your old landlord, time.

Well, the history books are wrong! And here you are, stranded as well, so do not be so quick to reproach these days, too, which the master apprehends, like a bullet flicked across the mind,

a thought just passing, now detached. Sure, you can eat till you’re plump in Taicang,
buy a new nest in Kaoshu township, daybreak’s rooster’s not crying for you,

hundreds of birds will argue who can admire it best
but you cannot approach that phoenix, that emperor, or peep down into its celestial fire.

At this moment, to no avail across the warp of the sky your spirit flies north and south—
Its shadow falls on the cunning rabbit but cannot peck its eyes, or separate the thief from his base.

It’s more complex now that I’m dead, detesting the person with noble aspirations is not the same as becoming fond of this tiny bird that’s come around. I know I’m not either kind,

contrary to who I am, as if I flourished in the Qin or Han dynasties, brave and chivalrous!
Want some advice? Distance yourself from your reputation, Crow. I’ll just carry on on foot. I’ve got

something final to look after.

#fullmoonsocial, anyone? Thursday March 5, 2015

Last full moon of winter will find us later this week. Anyone up for another communal poetry writing and sharing party on this upcoming full moon?  If you are, just use the tag “fullmoonsocial” on your WordPress blog post or #fullmoonsocial if you’re tweeting your poem.

I’ve got the moon hitting full at 1:05 pm EST. At that point, until it sets wherever you happen to be, consider the party to be started. I’ll be following the tags and posting links to your poems as I see them. As with our inaugural full moon social, if you’re interested in having your poem (or photo or artwork, whatever you post!) included in a free epub anthology that I’ll put together shortly after the party, let me know in an email to If you’re contributing, all rights are retained by you. The moon doesn’t take your rights.

Readings: Bridgewater International Poetry Festival (1/15, 1:30 pm)

January 15th-18th I’ll be one of a group of several dozen poets reading at Bridgewater College, just up the road from me in Bridgewater, Virginia, as part of the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival.

The festival pairs poets, who each read for 20 minutes, and then answer questions from the festival attendees for another 20 minutes. The poetry festival is the brainchild of fellow Virginia poet Stan Galloway, a professor of English at the college. My slot comes on the first day of the festival at 1:30 pm. The most up-to-date version of the schedule can be found at the link above.

The writing of poetry is a solitary type of thing, as we all know, and I’m looking forward to meeting with so many poets from different backgrounds and different parts of the world.

My plan is to split my 20 minutes between a selection of poems from the Mei Yao-ch’en sequence and a group of poems from the non-Mei output of the last year or so, all of which is on this blog. So here’s your chance to use your social media savvy to become an “influencer” and let me know if there’s a poem you want me to read on the 15th. I might even record a few as a way of practicing, and try to create some audio files to share. A few poets I know have done something similar, and I have always enjoyed hearing a poem read by its author. So go ahead, be a disruptive influencer of poetry, and let me know what you want to hear.

Attendees to the festival can buy one-day or full festival passes. So, fellow WP writers, if you happen to be driving down Route 81 sometime in the middle of January, feel free to swing on by and say hello. Leonard, I know you can make it for this, right–isn’t there a Greyhound from Turkey to Bridgewater? Dana? RobertEsther? Come on, now. Being on the other side of the world is no excuse! O C, I do not consider attendance optional. This is one of the issues with WordPress–being merely a digital poem’s throw from a bunch of writers doesn’t mean they can meet you for coffee.  What about you, Ann? Anthony? Ron? Gunmetal Geisha, you on my side of the continent this month? Ah, well.

Besides my regular reading gig at the local writers’ open reading here in Staunton on the second Wednesday of every month, I also have a reading scheduled for National Poetry Month in April–I think that’s at the Massanutten Library, in the heart of the Blue Ridge mountains, and will have more information on that soon as well.

In other news: Over the next few weeks I’ll begin to design and format the collection of Mei Yao-ch’en poems, as well as a collection of other poems written in the past year, tentatively entitled The Drift.  I may post new poems in this time, and may post some work from my previous books, which have not been posted on this site yet. I hope everyone’s new year is off to a good start!




Full Moon Social Anthology 1 [#fullmoonsocial2014]

Seriously nearly-full moon not taking any nonsense--join the FullMoonSocial2014 on Wednesday.

The idea was simple–let’s all gaze at the moon together, wherever we are, and share our words and images. Let’s have a full moon social event that the Ancients would understand and appreciate.

On October 8, 2014 WordPress and Twitter sparkled with poems, prose fragments, and photos from an assortment of creative folk using the hashtag #fullmoonsocial2014. It was a fun night to moon-gaze — and to refresh our searches on that tag to see what new poem or photo had popped up.

As much as I could, and with the permission of the authors, I have gathered this work into a humble anthology, available in PDF format. While designed like a traditional book, and without the website-inspired underlining, the websites or Twitter handles of each contributors are live links which will take you directly to their sites to find out more about the author and her/his work. The Contents pages are likewise linked to the book as well.

Please feel free to download it here, as a keepsake and a thank-you from me for joining in, to write, contribute, and to read. Any typos or other issues are mine, and please do not hesitate in letting me know if some adjustment needs to be made.

Likewise, if you’re an author or artist or photographer who contributed to the Full Moon Social but you don’t see your work here, let me know and I’ll add it in.

And if anyone’s interested in doing it again…

#FullMoonSocial2014 Anthology, Free and Coming Soon

I’m putting together our first Full Moon Social anthology, based on the posts to the #fullmoonsocial2014 event on October 8th.

The anthology will be FREE and available as both a PDF and epub. Each page contains a poem and a link to the author’s website or Twitter page. Where a contributor is only known by their WordPress or Twitter handle, I used that in place of an author name. It will be a nice way to honor the hours we spent together writing under the moon.

To be on the safe side, I’m asking any contributors to the event to email me at to confirm that you give permission to being included in this free commemorative ebook.  This will also help me if in my collection efforts I have missed some of the poems or photos posted by you.

By Friday I will be finalizing the anthology based on the permissions I’ve received. It has been fun to revisit these poems as I’ve been placing them in the (admittedly very basic) book design, and I look forward to sharing them once again in a more book-ish format.

Taking the Whole [#FullMoonSocial2014]

Full moon, Belograd, Russia, by Alex Markovich.

Full moon, Belgorod, Russia, by Alex Markovich.





















A contribution from my old Cornell pal and entrepreneur / poet / translator / tea ceremony guru / ranch-hand / dog trainer / everyman friend, Russ Mann:

No mere quarters or halves for me,
I am finally taking the whole moon and already
over it like a rocket to Jupiter, where I can have 63 more
the moon reflects back, greedy monkey,
don’t drown in the space between your ears,
you’re still earthbound, still have your seasons
you try and plant your timeless flags
but only i am always here
Thanks Russ!
The photo is courtesy of Alex Markovich, and that full moon is all the way from Russia. Thank you Alex, for lending us your vision from the other side of the world on this evening.