Dancing in December



Dark times. December. 

Earth’s axis on the slant

and the minutes fall from the day

a few at a time.


So we outsleep the dark, 

sleepwalking the grey hours.

Impossible to believe in light, 

or a birth, until


this winter sunrise, fox

going home with blood in its mouth,

all the dawn’s chemicals in its eye,

and the sky astonished.


—Gillian Clarke, from A Recipe for Water (Carcanet)



It gets troubling to trot our two-step through time in so much darkness. What if we stumble? What of the downfall? The mind tends to these questions as the days get shorter. We can reach for distraction, but this loses its shine as shadows lengthen. True warmth glows in moments of gathering, sharing—these moments require us to show up. Be present. Set the table, even when making the bed is too much to expect.

The sky is astonished as the fox survives. I hesitated to start the last post of our blog’s first year on a depressing note, but for this powerful message delivered in “Advent” by Welsh poet Gillian Clarke. You have to go low to get high, as a writer, so she must have visited some deep dark warrens to unearth such strong sustenence for the shortest winter days. I knew as soon as I read it in a tweet from December 2015, on the hunt for an intro poem befitting of the vibe this December, that I wanted to start with this image of the fox at sunrise, mouth warm with blood. 

Like Clarke’s fox, we’ve taken the winter on with determination. And the editorial team is ready to hibernate—but really, we’re cozying up for a reading period. We’re now accepting last submissions to The Orchards Winter 2023 ahead of publication, so send us your best. We look forward to delving into your submissions so far! Explore past issues of The Orchards here.

Kelsay Books has exciting projects in the works. Our blog exists—for a full year, now!—to bring you along for the ride. We strive, as poets, to astonish the sky. In dark December, especially, we’re with those doing their best to show up. As the sun rises on a new year, we’re thankful for steady poetry lovers and writers waltzing through to find solace in verse together. 

May we have this dance? 

Featured Story

Mary Beth Hines, Jessica Dubey, and Joanne Corey

L to R: Joanne Corey, Mary Beth Hines, and Jessica Dubey on the Mass MoCA campus, October 3, 2023 (photo credit: Wendy Stewart)

Kelsay authors Joanne Corey (Hearts, 2023), Jessica Dubey (All Those Years Underwater, 2022), and Mary Beth Hines (Winter at a Summer House, 2021) recently completed a workshop-in-residence week with the Boiler House Poets Collective (BHPC) at The Studios at Mass MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in North Adams. The authors enjoyed writing time in their studios, daily workshopping, museum visits at Mass MoCA and the Clark Art Institute in neighboring Williamstown, a BHPC reading at the Bear & Bee Bookshop in North Adams, and hours of sharing meals and lively conversation.
They look forward to returning to MASS MoCA in October ’24 for BHPC’s next reunion residency. Thank you Joanne Corey for submitting your residency experience with Jessica Dubey and Mary Beth Hines. We can't wait to see what these three have in store!
KB poets, we’re alway open to sharing about your writerly endeavors.
Get your copy of their books here:


Submissions Opportunity

Poetic Excellence

Book awards, reviews, readings, author interviews, publication credits...key ingredients in the recipe for your next favorite read!



Vivia by Linda Neal Reising is a finalist for 

the American Book Fest “Best Book” Award

in Narrative Poetry 

Congratulations Karen Petersen, author of Trembling, for:
“Emergency” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for The Forward Prize (UK)
“The Last Battle” was nominated for Best of the Net
Trembling won The Wil Mills 2022 Chapbook Award
from the West Chester University Poetry Center


Sonnets of Love and Joy by Paul Buchheit

is first place winner of the BookFest Awards Fall 2023

and a Finalist in the 2023 IAN Book of the Year Awards!

Read the review in Windy City Reviews

George Perreault won first place in the

first annual Charles Simic Poetry Prize

from The Cosmos Is Alive by Keith Gaboury
won awards for their respective anthologies

Reviews & Interviews


Read about [M]AR[Y] in Thimble Literary Magazine’s blog

Read Carole Mertz’s review on Beakful, a lit blog by Walter Ruhlmann

Highland Park Poetry posted a review in September 2020 of the same title

Read Dennis Daly’s review in a blog on

the Boston area small press and poetry scene

The same review appears in The Somerville Times

Autumn Sky Poetry Daily posted a review of DeFreitas last collection,

Winter in Halifax

Read Robert Cooperman’s review of See What I Mean? 

by Charles Rammelkamp for the Compulsive Reader

Forgetting by Nicole Rollender for Heart of Flesh Literary Journal
author of Talking Me Off The Roof
The Mom Egg Review featured For the Future of Girls
in their New and Notable, and a review by Rachel Howe
Read Lisa Grunbeger’s interview with
Angelina Sciolla, on For the Future of Girls, soon
She reports a successful poetry reading at Fergies Pub
in Philadelphia last month, where the book was
very well-received, selling about 25 copies!


Quill and Parchment gave a “wowza” review of Today and

Other Seasons and interviewed poet Sarah Russell here


Amanda Koenigsberg interviewed Charlotte Innes for
Poetry.LA, the long-running videotape series on Southern California poets,
founded and run by Hilda Weiss and Wayne Lindberg here:



Featured: It’s time for our annual Kelsay Books December reading! 

Register here to join 27 others in discovering talented voices from the nation’s premiere poetry press.

Plus, be sure to check out this review of guest reader Rodney Torreson’s book, The Ascension of Sandy’s Drive-In, in the Tipton Poetry Journal

Scroll up and down to spot more guest readers featured in Poetic Excellence....

Feel free to comment to get in touch with the organizers of the following events for more information!

Texas: Ute Carson launches In The Blink of an Eye, on Saturday, December 3rd from 3 to 5 p.m. local time. This evening of reading Carson's debut collection is hosted by the Elm Ridge Ranch in Austin, Texas. 

Connecticut: D. Walsh Gilbert reads selections from [M]AR[Y] December 3rd at Poetry Rocks, Art Center East, Vernon, Connecticut. 

Remote, TONIGHT: Kathleen Cassen Mickelson and Constance Brewer launch Prayer Gardening, Thursday, November 30, at 7 p.m. Central. Register to attend on Zoom here.

Hyde Park, Boston, MA:


Holly Guran, Sarah Kersey, and Mary O'Melveny read Kelsay Books selections on Thursday, December 14 from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern at the Menino Arts Center.

Bonus: Stay tuned for a merry January book launch and Zoom reading hosted by Marc Frazier, author of If It Comes to That, with a special guest!

Featured Readings

Lynn Domina, author of Inland Sea, featured in FUMFA Poets & Writers Fall Livestream


Holly Guran, author of Now Before and Ever, featured on Richard Waring’s PoemWorks Reading Series

Publication News

Portland Press Herald published “Deep Water” and other poems by Ken Craft

Autumn Sky Poetry featured “Degrees of Bare” by Charles Weld

Holly Neumann announced Rejection To Acceptance

by Patricia Williams in the Waupaca County News


Congratulations to December’s KBB featured poets. Wishing all a warm holiday season and happy new year! Thank you for choosing Kelsay Books as your poetry provider.

1 comment

  • Discovered you via the wonderful poem by C Wade Bentley posted on Rattle this morning. One thing let to another . . . a rich trove.


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