Thursday, December 30, 2010


Back from a two-week residency at Ragdale, an artist's retreat outside of Chicago. Pretty cold outside, but filled with warmth inside. I wish everyone could have the chance to spend two weeks doing what they absolutely love, surrounded by others who totally get why you love it. Plus beautifully-prepared food, good conversation and a fireplace. What a gift.

Sage, my current poetry project grew wildly while I was there. People talk about the "Ragdale effect" through which you create a year's worth of work in two weeks which is pretty close to what I was able to do during my residency.

A big accomplishment was writing the four poems, one for each element/season, that will define the four sections of the paired 'herbal' poems. (Check out the November Sage blog post for more info on these.)

I know it's really winter but here is the Air poem that will head up the Spring collection of poems. I am not a big cold weather person so let's remember light and green -- and consider all the ways we can open ourselves up in the coming year.


Fills her lungs, overflows
to the space around her heart, her throat,
the cavity behind her eyes. Inside
the motion of molecules, her edges
diffuse to a bouyant clarity.
It is spring. The trees exhale their green
lifeblood as she folds into the mist
that cycles from ground to sky.
Through dark blue nights,
she courts the constellations--
Aries, Virgo -- held weightless
within their virtues. Nothing
to collide with, nothing to hold on to,
no way to come down.

Beth Feldman Brandt (c) 2010

And if you really want that winter feeling, check out my fellow Ragdale resident Michael McColly's very cool blog here.

Want to be in touch? Email me here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

VOTE for (My) Poetry

VOTING CLOSED! Thanks to everyone who cast their vote, tried to cast their vote a few more times, told their friends, tried to vote a few more times. It looks like "Fault Lines" finished a strong second. The winner was a 12 year old girl from Chile. How cool is that? Keep checking out the Broadsided Press site, become a vector, help get poetry into unusual places! Thanks again to all.

My poem, 'Fault Lines', is a finalist for the Haiku-Year-in-Review (HYIR)- Winter Season sponsored by Broadsided Press. The winning poems (one for each season) will be combined with visual images and posted as broadsides on January 1. People like you all over the world, known as 'vectors', print and post these broadsides every month.

Poets were invited to write haiku that responded to one event over the past year. My poem was written in honor of my brother-in-law, Ed Nelson, who helped manage the phone banks in Miami's Little Haiti as people tried to find their families after the earthquake.

Fault lines crack, crumble,
swallow cries crossing oceans.
Calls go unanswered.

So if you are so inclined, go to Broadsided Press and vote for a poem to represent each season --maybe even mine for Winter--and become a vector while you are it at! Just remember, unlike in Philadelphia, you can only vote once!


Monday, November 8, 2010


A longer post than usual here but there's a new project I'm working on that takes a little explaining...

A while back, I spent some time digging around the archive at Bartram's Gardens which included Bartram's compilation of herbal remedies. This got me interested in historic collections of 'herbals' and I found my way to the Rare Book Collection at the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden during my residency last year at Ragdale, an artists' retreat outside of Chicago.

With the help of librarian Ed Valauskas at the Gardens, I discovered John Gerard's "The Herball: The Generall Historie of Plants" (1633) and was inspired to begin a collection of poems which paired 'found poems' excavated from Gerard's text with poems written in conversation with the found work.

This has become quite an undertaking which will culminate in a collaborative artist book with the amazing Philadelphia book artist Claire Owen. I am off to Ragdale again in December to move the project along but thought I'd start sharing the work and hear what you think. Feel free to comment -- this is still a work in progress.

The first poem below (in italics) is a found poem. Imagine taking the text from one plant's description and blacking out words (like an old-time censor of WWII letters) until what is left makes a poem. The second poem (in the non-blog world, they will be laid out side by side) is written in response to the found poem.

More about the project as it unfolds, but in the meantime, here is a small taste of the title poem, "Sage" which considers those family secrets that often remain unacknowledged, at least out loud.


End of memory

The secret, no doubt
as it should be, leaves.

wrapped in linen
hold grief.

Gone and with you, the secrets
you had held hard and deep
as stones under water, and we,
with the wisdom of children,
felt the ripples, averted our eyes,
diverted our words,
all our lives drawn to things
at the edge of our sight
like the flicker of minnows
we lured with string
and bits of bread but never

© Beth Feldman Brandt 2010

Want to be in touch? Email me here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I had just about forgotten about my poem "Parallelism" being published by "Quay: A Journal of the Arts", when it arrived in the mail last week. (Yes, it is the Spring 2009 issue. Apparently, it's hard times for poetry journals as well.)

Its arrival coincided with a conversation I had with a friend who is juggling work, travel, partner, family -- not to mention striving to make time for a creative life. Well, maybe I have this conversation with lots of friends. Maybe all the time.

But I do think that there is a frustration particular to my artist friends as they try to find time for the quiet mind to switch from left brain to right, to sit with the part of their life that is life-giving, life-saving, and utterly elusive.


She had mastered the ability
to read Adrienne with her right hand
while collecting the remnants
of daily life with the left.

On Fridays, she sorted words like laundry:
plate and table to the left,
grace and hunger to the right.
Some demanded definition.
Others sprawled across her desk
like sullen teenagers, daring to be defined.

Once on a late train from Baltimore,
her ghost floated over the Chesapeake.
Mirror-flipped, her words tumbled right to left,
fluent in a foreign tongue, exotic as silk,
until the train reached home.

A trick of the eye sees parallels converge
like train tracks far beyond the station.
But she knows what is true
and what she keeps leaving behind.

Beth Feldman Brandt

Want to be in touch, email me here.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Amazing Grace

I recently had the chance to hear Kay Ryan, the US Poet Laureate, read her work at Delaware County Community College. As she said, there is no requirement for a Poet Laureate to have a project but "they would very much appreciate it if you did." She attended community college and has taught remedial English for many years, so decided to highlight the opportunities that they afford ('afford' in more ways than one) during her tenure. She will only be doing readings at community colleges so keep an eye out for her at a community college near you.

Ryan spoke about how she feels the most interesting things in poetry (and in life) happen at the edges. She writes poems with very short lines but great depth, exposing all the edges to scrutiny with sort of a 'bring it on' bravado. She also investigates phrases we take for granted and tries to juxtapose new meanings on them. So, with a nod to Kay Ryan...

Amazing Grace

Sunset over a blue ocean
won't do it.

Neither will a candle lit
against the darkness
or a cool hand on
a fevered forehead.

It has to be more
than lingering last notes,
a small kindness,
dignity in adversity.

Not generosity
or forbearance.
Certainly not love.

This is the least
she would expect,
although she is pleased
anyone thinks of her
at all anymore.

Beth Feldman Brandt 2009

Saturday, February 27, 2010


  • It's been a helluva a winter in Philadelphia -- almost 80 inches of snow and it's only the beginning of March.
  • I am not a winter person.

Anyway, I've spent some of my snowbound days reading a new book of poetry by Liz Bradfield entitled "Approaching Ice". Liz is a naturalist who has spent time in Alaska and other cold places, and has created a stunning book of poems that trace the journeys of polar explorers interspersed with moments of personal reflection and insight. It is a book that made me thankful that my biggest problems in a blizzard are the line in the supermarket and whether the cable goes out. You can find the book on Amazon or get your local independent bookseller to order you a copy.

A while ago, I was doing some research for a poem when I came across an article that said that there was a 50-50 chance that the polar ice caps would totally melt last summer. I started thinking about what would happen if all those who had been lost in the ice were finally freed...and the poem went from there.


If the ice melts, there will be
no floods, no tidal waves.
No need for sharp metal at the prow.
No tins of meat sealed against the cold.
No one searching. No one awaiting word.

The open waters will unbind
those whom it has held,
now left without landmarks
to find safe passage home.

You are lost to me
on twilight afternoons
when you search past yourself
through black windows,
adrift at the kitchen table
while dinner warms on the stove.

I wait for your return
through ice-strewn waters,
your presence slowly revealed
like toys in the backyard
after a long winter.

Beth Feldman Brandt, 2009

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Darwin Poetry Project Performances

"Litt's setting of Brandt's "Transmutation," for cello, violin, and flute,
forcefully welded text and music in illuminating Darwin's stuggle with
faith and science"

-Daniel Webster, The Philadelphia Inquirer , 2/23/2010

The "Dialogues with Darwin" Poetry Project wrapped up last weekend with performances by Network for New Music at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. The range of pieces gave an interesting collection of perspectives on Darwin's life and work. I have to say it was an adventure from beginning to end that culminated in a moving interpretation of my poem "Transmutation" by composer Andrew Litts. There should be a recording posted up at some point (since it was played by a professional ensemble, we can't just throw it up on YouTube) but it the meantime, you can read about it by checking out the review in The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Broad Street Review.

Of course, we don't believe in reviews...except when they are good ones!

Thanks to all of you who came out to the performances or sent long-distance encouragement. Stay tuned for more Darwin collaborations with my now favorite composer.

Want to get in touch? Email me here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Ten Suggestions

In the spirit of Martin Luther King Day and figuring that many of our New Year's resolutions have already gone by the wayside, I thought I would share a poem that seems to provide a different kind of inspiration.

This poem was written in response to a workshop assignment by poet and teacher extraordinaire, A.V. Christie, to write a ten-line poem. After staring at a blank page for a considerable amount of time, I listed everything I could think of that came in 'tens' and landed on The Ten Commandments.

My religious education, such as it was, took place a while ago so I admit to having to google them. And, well, The Ten Commandmants are pretty harsh. So instead, I offer up The Ten Suggestions, some inspirational (and perhaps even attainable) thoughts for the coming year.

Wishing everyone a healthy, warm and creative 2010.

The Ten Suggestions

Let this come first.
What you have can be enough.

Tell the truth if you can.
Take only what is yours to take.

Be steadfast in your love.
Revive what can be saved.

Stop. Rest a bit.
See things for what they are.

Remember who carried you here.
Write their names.

Information on the Dialogues with Darwin performance on February 19 and 21 can be found below.

Want to get in touch? Email me here.