Saturday, August 22, 2015

Review of Rhonda Pettit's FETAL WATERS

            FETAL WATERS

            by Rhonda Pettit

         Finishing Line Press, 2013
         ISBN: 9781622293933
         28 pages


I first met Rhonda Pettit at a monthly meeting of the Greater Cincinnati Writers League where she served as the poetry critic for the evening. She spoke of our poems in intuitive and comprehensive ways, posing questions that invited the poets to think about ways to deepen them. We both grew up and continue to live in Northern Kentucky, where we sometimes see each other at poetry readings, workshops, and writing retreats.  
Karen L. George

Rhonda Pettit, Ph.D., is a poet, scholar, and amateur musician who teaches writing and literature at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College, where she is also editor of the Blue Ash Review. In addition to her chapbook Fetal Waters, and poetic drama The Global Lovers, she has published poems in online and print publications across the U.S. Currently at work on two manuscripts and a series of collages, she has been awarded writing fellowships to Hambidge Center, Hedgebrook, Hopscotch House, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her scholarship includes two books on the poetry and fiction of Dorothy Parker (A Gendered Collision and The Critical Waltz), and articles about a range of poets and poems. She also served as a poetry editor for both volumes of the Aunt Lute Anthology of U. S. Women Writers.


Review of Rhonda Pettit's Fetal Waters

The poems in Rhonda Pettit's poetry chapbook, Fetal Waters, examine personal memory within a larger historical context, dealing with subjects such as faith/doubt, connection/disconnection, the duality and inequalities of life, and such issues as segregation, racism, war, and the sex trade. The poems are infused with rhythm and music. They ask important questions, yearn for answers and understanding, and resonate with compassion.

Water in its many forms, literal and metaphorical, permeates Fetal Waters, beginning with the opening whimsical poem, "Cirrus." Pettit selects her words with great care, creating repeated vowel and consonant sounds that result in lilting internal rhyme that invites the reader into her way of looking at and thinking about the world around her. The imagery and soft sounds are hypnotizing:

            snips from a pale spool
            a silver stitch

            lisp of a faint direction
            a whim, a wink

            a willowing hush        
            buss on a blue cheek

Even the poem's form mimics the lightness of the subjectcouplets of short lines not reaching halfway across the page. The poet draws us into this first poem, and thus the whole book, by the intimacy she achieves through her use of the second person: "Even your name is a whisper / your lightness less // than a feather." The line near the center of the poem, "a wisp of gathering to come," spoke to me of possibilities—"gathering" literal and symbolic, as in the opportunity for life, the very beginnings of life, especially in view of what follows itthe second and title poem, "Fetal Waters," in which the poem's persona imagines being a fetus, floating in the amniotic waters. "Fetal Waters," is also written in couplets (only three) with short lines. Here is the poem in its entirety:

            A keen sense of fulfilling,
            but no waves for now.

            It is quiet, it is calm,
            little bones

            a stone's toss away
            from pony time.

The internal rhyme of "bones" "stone's" adds power to the poem, a sense of momentum building. The theme of possibility from the first poem is echoed here as well, succinctly and evocatively, in the line "A keen sense of fulfilling" and "pony time," referencing the impending birth and all there is to unfold in that new life over time. But don't be deceived into thinking all the poems are going to be "quiet" and "calm." The subject matter and tension deepens and darkens the further in we go, as if walking into a swimming pool from the shallow into the deep end. The poet suggests that in the phrase "but no waves for now." The "for now" subtly and yet powerfully hints that there will be waves in the future.

These waves are introduced in the third poem of the chapbook, "Baptism," where the ideas of belief and trust and being part of a congregation are pondered and questioned. The poem opens with the lines:

            She knew she was supposed to believe
            in something, but what other than
            the wetness ascending her legs?
            That the minister's grip could be
            trusted? That salvation would not
            have its sting?

The above lines introduce us to the poet and/or the poems' personas' questioning what they observe, what they are expected to believe and blindly accept, as seen in the following lines of "Baptism":

                              ...Close your eyes,
            he whispered, tilting her back and down,
            but she left them open to see the face
            of God. It blurred into anger and
            absence as she rose, a wave crashing
            on a shore of air, the congregation
            mute and obedient as angels.

This poem also uses contrasting words, images, and ideas, as many of the poems do, creating a sense of life's duality.  In this poem she pairs "salvation" and "sting," "open" and "closed," uncertainty and blind faith. This image of keeping her eyes open echoes throughout the poems in examining the world in which she lives. In the poem "Avenues" it's seen in the ending lines "Almost religious / what we don't know."

The central eight poems in "Fetal Waters" deal with racism centered on a segregated swimming pool. In the poem "1963," Pettit effectively repeats the line "what did I know?" as she observes the Negro boy her own age (eight) who was "not allowed in," who she says "watched from the other side / of the swimming pool fence...topped with barbed wire."

The poem's ending image of "the sun / glaring from water and concrete, / blinding us all" is an effective image that mirrors the unwillingness of people at that time to see the truth, either actively endorsing or blindly following segregation and racist beliefs and attitudes. This image of blindness brought me back to the poem "Baptism" in which the poet's eyes are open, and the irony of those baptismal waters washing away sin, and the suggestion that these swimming pool waters need to be kept uncontaminated.

This duality of who is allowed in and who is kept out, via the image of the barbed wire fence continues in the next poem, "The Steps," in which Pettit writes: "Your parents had paid for the key / that unlocked the gate and let you / in." She effectively uses contrasting imagery to describe the fence: 
            ...When you slammed the gate shut,
            it rattled the chain-link fence into song,        
            a peeling of flat, airy bells, and wobbled
            the barbed wire above it, a tone
            too low to be heard.

The image of the fence creating a high lovely sound ("like bells") rubs up against the image of the barbed wire on top of the fence emitting "a tone too low to be heard," which results in a tension that runs through this and the other poems in the sequence.

She describes entering the "whites-only pool":
            Heads would rise to see
            if you belonged here—a heaven of water
            in the midsummer hell of the sixties,
            ghettos and streets and lives on fire,
            America's racial napalm
            everywhere but here.

            You belonged here,
            wading in water you knew
            to be pure...

Again the poet uses contrasting images of "heaven" and "hell," "water" and "fire" to represent the divide between her protected world in the "whites-only pool" and the riots going on. Again, she suggests the idea of the pool's water being uncontaminated, "pure" because only whites were allowed in. The phrase "You belonged here" is repeated three times almost like an incantation, or as if the poet is trying to convince herself of the fact and the correlating one—that blacks didn't belong there. How ironic it is that while she's swimming in this "whites-only pool" she hears the song "Ball of Confusion" on the radio. The song is not only sung by black singers, but it contains lines about people's actions due to "the color of their skin." I get a sense that the song's title reflects the young girl's state of mind concerning the issue of segregation.

In the poem "Swim Lessons" boundaries and the idea of what divides us is presented as the "rope dividing heaven from hell" — the shallow water from the deep end. She and the others learning to swim must venture over the border:

            To cross it and our fear of being
            sucked down to oblivion, we'd have to
            survive immersion, allow ourselves to be
            surrounded by substance both like us
            and foreign.

The above lines work on the literal level of the girl's swim lessons, but they also, in the context of the other poems in this sequence, speak of the future—in particular of when segregation will no longer be legal, but many other crossings of symbolic borders and being "immersed" and "surrounded" by unfamiliar situations she must discover her own way through. This poem where she is compelled to trust the lifeguard calls to mind the earlier poem "Baptism" (another immersion) where she wonders if "the minister's grip could be / trusted?"

The poem "The Night Swimmers" is a persona poem, written in the opposing collective point-of-view of an anonymous "we" who the reader quickly realizes are black kids who wait until night, when the whites-only pool is closed, to sneak into it. The barbed wire fence they climb over is described as: "each barb a star, / a stick-angel guarding heaven." The poem continues with the following lines:

                                     ...Into the water
            we ease, the water saying nothing, giving way,
            refusing to give us away...

These lines so beautifully portray "the heaven" of being in the water, this "privilege" that they're immersing themselves into. The exquisite image of "the water saying nothing" and water "giving way," suggests that this water (and all that water symbolizes—birth, life, purity, wholeness, etc) is indeed meant for everyone.

In the last two poems of the sequence, "The Fill" and "The Fence," the pool is "filled in...bulldozed and backhoed, / pounded and busted, shoved and hauled." The poet ends "The Fill" by saying that with the debris was buried:

the woods on either side and behind
            the silence of the night swimmers
            the joy, the fear, the holding on
            the conversations never held
            the questions never asked
            the desire for order
            the one way
            in and out:

            all part of the fill.

The form of the above lines creates the image of things being sucked into a vortex which suggests the image created in the poem "The Steps" by the mention of the song "Ball of Confusion." It feels as if the poem is a lament for not only the poet's personal history (her memories) being buried, but that time in history as well. 

In the last poem of the sequence "The Fence," she describes the fence as being "like bones, / like the skeleton of memory," that it "bore the weight of bodies / kept in, kept out." This duality and the image of borders that divide us is echoed in the later lines: "For twenty years it [the fence] had whispered / yes and no, black and white." The poem and the sequence end with an intriguing reversal in the following two stanzas:  

            Now we can't walk
            on what once was water
            without risking a twisted ankle
            in a sinkhole.

            We must walk
            heads bowed, eyes down,
            as if we didn't belong there.

Now, even the "whites" have lost their privilege, as it were, to swim in the water. Now they no longer belong. The last two lines, while working on a literal level of keeping their gaze down so as not to stumble, can also be seen to infer a sense of shame ("heads bowed, eyes down") for the part played in belonging to the segregated pool.

Several of the poems delve into the issue of sex slavery. In "O, Fledgling" Pettit laments over the fact that there are "girls sold // because they are ten ten ten / here and // elsewhere." The repetition in the phrase "ten ten ten" effectively emphasizes the poet's incredulity and outrage. "Enfant Terrible," a haunting persona poem written from the point-of-view of a woman forced to work in a brothel, opens with the stanza:

            After their bodies,
            one by sweaty one,
            collapse onto mine in the brothel, they walk away
            mistaking relief for freedom.

The poet creates this woman's powerful response to these men and the life she was forced into living by the woman imagining she has impregnated these men:

            They do not know
            they must mother me now.
            I have made these men pregnant
            with their secret.
            I am

           the secret
           they carry like a nine-pound fetus—
           never born.

Pettit creates a potent image of reversal in the lines above, giving us a chilling sense of this woman's imagined power, her anger, her need for revenge—which heightens our perception of her underlying sadness and desperation.

Pettit delves into the violence of war in several poems, such as "Instruments of War" where she describes a newspaper photograph of a guitar among the dead at a battle scene. She asks the chilling question:

            Which one of the dead
            was the soldier troubadour    
            who might have sung of love and beauty
            and justice, all the same note?  How many
            had he killed in spite of this
            before an ambush found
            him off-beat?

In the poem "O, Fledgling" she laments "child soldiers, mutilated women;" in "Mother the Stranger" a man once loved "left the city for war / whose bones make soil / for the desert;" and in "The Transposition Blues" there are unsettling images of "The child who lost/ an arm carries a rifle" and "In the mass grave / a blue shirt on bones."

Pettit encapsulates one of the overriding sensibilities of this collection—a sense of incomprehension, helplessness, and compassion in view of things she terms as "the earth's sadnesses" in the moving elegy "O, Fledgling." She finds a dead bird near her porch, which dredges up the many other sadnesses we're faced with in this world. The poem ends with the following haunting couplets:

                ...I might have put
            the lost
            one in its nest, but late, I went
            to work

            instead, running and responsible.

            O, Ovid. O, Bruehel. O, Auden. O,
            mean life.

One of the many things I admire is the way Pettit uses words to suggest several meanings, such as in her above use of the word "running," which literally means she's hurrying to get to work, but it also suggests that she is "running" from the reality of this "lost one," and the realization plus frustration that she can do so little about it or the other sadnesses in this world. She does the same thing with the word "Grounded," emphasizing the word "responsible" on the line before it—the narrator telling herself that she is only being a well-balanced, sensible person—and yet the other meaning of "grounded," as in "an airplane is grounded" gives us the sense of the opposite of "running," of being put out of action, which mirrors the image of the fledgling brought down.

Besides poems in Fetal Waters resonating with each other through the imagery of water, many also connect through Pettit's imagery of the natural world. In "The Calling" she lyrically describes the way mountains change and are preserved: "Mathematical and mystical, /they ride the plates, thrust and erode from within, / sending boulder, cobble, gravel downstream and seaward / until I think they are gone, confusing / their presence with memory." And later, she dedicates a poem to a housefly, something most people deem innocuous. In "Musca domestica" she returns to the theme of life 's duality, speaking of the house fly's "invisible feculent trails" and yet also describes it as "small, dark, so distinct and delicate / you almost look clean," and says, "I envy / the authority // with which you land, / observing the mute, minute particulars, / taking the world on your own terms."

The collection ends with the beautiful and wise poem "Something about Us," where Pettit describes one Queen Anne's Lace flowering along a highway, using it as an image mirroring ourselves. She asks:

            How did it survive the blade,
            or did the mower loop around it
            nearly grinning? Or is it the first
            to return, uncowed, inspired by the violence
            used to tidy the land? It knows
            something about us.

Again, in the lines above there is the element of duality, of seemingly incongruous elements—this Queen Anne's Lace flourishing "amid concrete and asphalt, steel / and carbon monoxide," portrayed as not only "uncowed," but "inspired by the violence / used to tidy the land."

The poem and the collection end with:

                                           ... its tiny
            clustered blossoms open
            my window

            where looking out
            is looking in.

What power lies in her suggestion that one lone flower can "open / my window," which creates the image of the poet opening her window to look more closely at the Queen Anne's Lace, but also that one small object can open us, deepen our awareness to the power of beauty and growth and resilience, and the reminder that we, too, are tough, that we too can hopefully survive the world's violence. The ending image of this window, again one of duality, "where looking out / is looking in," establishes our connection to the natural world, and suggests the idea of mirroring—of examining what we see in the world and reflecting on it—in effect, coming to a place of balance. This "looking out" and "looking in" also echoes the repeated themes of inclusion and exclusion of the segregated pool series of poems central to the book.

Rhonda Pettit's chapbook, Fetal Waters, swims with beauty and violence as she seamlessly blends her personal memories and other personas' imagined experiences into the historical events of her time, naming the world's inequalities and injustices, but always with compassion and clarity. These poems vibrate with tenderness and tension—the friction between how we connect and disconnect as people—and a keen sense of yearning for what we've lost, what we might yet hold, and what we will perhaps discover in ourselves and our world.        


Karen George retired from computer programming to write full-time. She lives in Florence, Kentucky, and enjoys traveling to historic river towns, mountains, and Europe. She is author of Into the Heartland (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Inner Passage (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Swim Your Way Back (Dos Madres Press, 2014), and The Seed of Me (Finishing Line Press, 2015). You can find her work in Louisville Review, Tupelo Press 30/30 Project, Wind, Permafrost, qarrtsiluni, and Still. She holds an MFA from Spalding University, and is co-founder and fiction editor of the journal, Waypoints. Visit her website:

Interview with Rhonda Pettit

Rhonda Pettit at Split This Rock 2012

                        ...Swimming was always
                       half water, half air;
                       half hold me

                       half get away.

    from “The Invasion,” Rhonda Pettit

Rhonda Pettit, Ph.D., is a poet, scholar, and amateur musician who teaches writing and literature at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College, where she is also editor of the Blue Ash Review. In addition to her chapbook Fetal Waters, and poetic drama The Global Lovers, she has published poems in online and print publications across the U.S. Currently at work on two manuscripts and a series of collages, she has been awarded writing fellowships to Hambidge Center, Hedgebrook, Hopscotch House, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her scholarship includes two books on the poetry and fiction of Dorothy Parker (A Gendered Collision and The Critical Waltz), and articles about a range of poets and poems. She also served as a poetry editor for both volumes    of the Aunt Lute Anthology of U. S. Women Writers.
* * *

I first met Rhonda Pettit at a monthly meeting of the Greater Cincinnati Writers League where she served as the poetry critic for the evening. She spoke of our poems in intuitive and comprehensive ways, posing questions that invited the poets to think about ways to deepen them. We both grew up and continue to live in Northern Kentucky, where we sometimes see each other at poetry readings, workshops, and writing retreats. 
Karen L. George

(This interview was conducted via email.)

* * *

What inspired you to write poetry in the beginning, and have the reasons changed over the years? 

RP: I grew up with poetry in the house. My father had saved his mother's scrapbooks which were filled with old newspaper verse. My mother, a talented pianist at one time, had several anthologies of poetry on her bookshelves. She read poems to me -- a favorite of mine was "The House That Jack Built." She bought me my first poetry book -- Poems for the Children's Hour. In this atmosphere I started writing poems as a child for the sheer joy of rhythm and rhyme, then broke into free verse in high school. Later I got away from writing poems when I became focused on how to make a living. I got back to it when I faced what James Still called "the then-what days." After you have your job, your house, and all your pretty little things, Still said in an interview, "the then-what days will come." I took this to mean: What will your life and life's work be about? What will be their significance beyond mere comfort and survival?

Which poets and/or particular books have been your poetry touchstones?

RP:  In my early twenties, Blake and Whitman were important, and then I was fascinated by the Beat poets and novelists. Later, as I took workshops with James Baker Hall and the visiting poets he brought to UK, the poems of W. S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, and Louise Gluck were essential to me, all for different reasons. Dorothy Parker was important to me for scholarly reasons when I began working on my PhD. More recently, Muriel Rukeyser and C. D. Wright, especially her books One Big Self and One with Others, continue to inspire me. But I'm also drawn to the narrative poems of Philip Levine and B. H. Fairchild's The Art of the Lathe, as well as the land-rich writing of Jim Wayne Miller, Ron Rash, and other Appalachian writers. And of course, I drop into an Emily Dickinson swoon periodically -- wait! -- I feel one coming on now!

Do you write poetry with a specific audience in mind? What do you envision or hope readers receive from your poetry?

RP:  Wow. The audience question is a provocative one for me. As a reader, I think it's wonderful that there are so many different kinds of poetries -- styles, tastes, voices, traditions, poetics. But I think it is dangerous for a poet, a word artist, to think much -- if at all -- about audience when she works. For me, part of the noise I need to turn off when I sit down to listen within, i.e., write, is all the talk about labels, trends, "schools," and what editors or contest judges want. If some idea of what the audience wants guides your writing, then you're writing niche verse, regardless of its technical merits.

I wanted to ask you about your poem “The Transposition Blues (with dynamics),” which I found to be a complex, challenging, haunting poem—one I wanted to read many times to tease out new connections, new layers of meaning. I’m thinking it’s what I’ve heard termed as a contrapuntal poem, which involves two separate poems that relate in some way to each other, as in music where you have a counterpoint—two relatively independent melodies sounded together.  This went along with the titles of the two columns of the poem:  “Key of C” and “Key of E.”I saw the poem as a series of images that gained momentum as it went, just as the titled parts did: from the first (“Pianissimo”) a musical term that means “very soft” to the second (“Mezzo piano”) which means “moderately soft” to the fifth (“Crescendo”) which means “a gradual increase in loudness.” The “Key of C” side of the poem contained images of the more privileged life or state of being while the “Key of E” side held images of a more stark and underprivileged way of life, for example “How the couple calls / their love:  deeply igneous” vs. “This goat and sack of grain / for a twelve-year-old wife.” Or “June and the sonorous bodies / glide in the pool” vs. “Starvation’s eye / holding you for the whole note.” A great sense of tension was created by these contrasting images and sides of the poem, which I interpreted to represent a portrait of the current world—countries such as America vs. third world countries—and all the inequities that exist between the two, and the tensions that can result from this imbalance.

Can you talk about how you came to write this poem in this particular form and ways in which you intended or hoped the poem would be read?

RP:  Thank you for reading this poem so attentively -- which is all any poet can ask of a reader. A conglomerate of factors helped produce this poem. I began drafting it during the George W. Bush administration, not long after my mother died. She -- Opal was her name -- is alluded to in the poem. I was learning to play the guitar, and had fallen in love with not only the instrument itself, but with the playing of instruments of all kinds, the internal and external physicalities of making music. I was playing a lot of blues during the Bush years! I was also working on The Global Lovers, a collection of poems in the voice of a sex slave that eventually became a poetic drama, so social and political issues were close at-hand. And I had a stash of images from failed drafts, poem notes, and journal entries that I wanted to build poems around or otherwise use. C is the first note in the natural scale, so the images in that key of the poem suggest moments to be expected or possible in the natural course of nonviolent events. I wanted to see how these images might change under stress, i.e., how they might appear if transposed into the key of E, the key most associated with the blues. There are image echoes across the two columns of the poem. You are right that some of the "E" images capture suffering that occurs outside of the U.S., but some of them allude to the shortcomings of American leadership under George W. Bush -- "Moment that signals / a nation in menopause" and "The 21st century / coming home to a crying house." I was thinking of Dick Chaney accidentally shooting his hunting buddy in the face when I wrote, "Caged birds / released for the hunt."

I saw your powerful poetic drama about sex slavery, “The Global Lovers,” performed at Grailville a few years ago. You delve into that same topic in your chapbook, for example the poem “Enfant Terrible” written from the point-of-view of a woman forced to work in a brothel. Can you talk a bit about what drew you to write about that subject?

RP:  Again, a combination of muse energies at work. I was on academic leave to work on a collection of poems about my mother's experience with Alzheimer's. In the course of staying generally informed, I had read an article by Nicholas Kristof about Aisha Parveen, a kidnapped Pakistani girl forced to work in a brothel. One morning, while working on a poem exploring dementia, I heard the voice of a young sex slave; I wrote down what she said to get that voice out of the way, thinking I'd return to it later, but the voice kept returning with more things to say, and it dominated the last six weeks of my leave, and the next four years afterward. This confirmed for me that, after taking in experience and impressions, writing poetry is first an act of listening.

Many of the poems in your chapbook touch on social issues such as segregation, war, and sex slavery. What do you think about the poet’s role as activist?  Do you feel the poet has a responsibility to address social injustices in their work? 

RP: I think a question behind this question might be: are social issues the most important issues for poets to write about? They are when a particular poet in a particular moment needs to write about them, feels that authentic need from within, in concert with the language and voice to explore it. The heavens and hells of humanity are always with us. We need poems about both.

You teach creative writing and literature at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash. Does teaching impact your writing, and if so, how?

RP: The most direct example concerns The Global Lovers. When I returned from my academic leave in 2006, I taught the playwriting workshop in the fall. That's when I began to think about converting the sex slave poems into a dramatic performance. This generated a lot of new writing, and a fantastic creative experience working with my director, E. Charlton-Trujillo, for the staged readings and Fringe Festival production.

What advice would you give to a beginning poet about writing poetry?

RP: These days it would be: trade in some of your time with online, virtual experiences for physical interactions with people, nature, urban environments, the arts, and any other subject that interests you. Read -- not just poetry but history, science, philosophy, mythology. Go to live performances. Visit museums. Walk, watch, listen, breathe deep. Learn to play an instrument. In other words, get tactile.

You’re an editor of the literary journal, “The Blue Ash Review.” What are some of the qualities you look for in the submissions you read? Can you give us some examples of what you might reject a poem for?

RP: Most of the work we publish is by our students, who range in age and experience, and may be taking a workshop for the first time in their lives. I look for interesting subjects, vivid imagery, and other applications of techniques, but if I know the student, I also consider the writer's growth as demonstrated by the poem. Has she lived the struggle of writing the poem, learned from it? Has he explored rather than explained? As for what I reject:  clich├ęs, bad rhyming, predictable surface responses to the subject or situation of the poem. 

What poets and/or collections are you currently reading, and can you tell us what you particularly like about them?

RP:  This summer I read Muriel Rukeyser's Elegies, and Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric -- a fascinating montage of poetry, essay, and visual art. A timely one. Everyone should read and discuss it.

What writing are you currently working on?

RP: I have several projects in-progress. I'm revising a manuscript of poems, Shore to Shore, for submissions this fall. I'm also working on what looks to be a book-length series of narrative poems about a World War II veteran, using my (deceased) father as a model. This project requires research, so much of my reading time this summer has been taken up with that. Then last year something new popped up. As part of a collaborative, creative arts faculty learning community, I began working on a series of call-and-response poems, scat poems, scatifestos, and collages, some of these with my collaborator H. Michael Sanders, as part of the Gaps & Overlaps exhibition at the UC Blue Ash College Art Gallery. This work will continue into the 2015-16 school year. I also have several poetry sequences that need work, as well as some play ideas I'd like to get to. And this summer, for the first time, I broke into a personal essay stemming from a "Write Your River Autobiography" prompt from Richard Hague. I thought it would be a poem when I started typing out my notes, but alas! Prose!

* * *

To read Rhonda Pettit's poem "Epistemology" visit Tipton Poetry Journal.

Karen George, MFA, retired from computer programming to write full-time. She enjoys traveling to historic river towns, mountain country, and Europe. She is author of Into the Heartland (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Inner Passage (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Swim Your Way Back (Dos Madres Press, 2014), and The Seed of Me (Finishing Line Press, 2015). You can find her work in Louisville Review, Tupelo Press 30/30 Project, Wind, Permafrost, Blast Furnace, qarrtsiluni, Found Poetry Review, and Still.