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Joanne the Poet - The Poetry of Joanne M. Clarkson




Poem in “I Sing the Salmon Home” Anthology

My poem “Salmon Bones” is included in the brand new anthology edited by Washington Poet Laureate Rena Priest. The purpose of “I Sing the Salmon Home” is to raise awareness about the importance of and threats to salmon in our state.

My poem is dedicated to Judy DuPuis, dear friend and fellow youth services librarian. She passed away a few years ago. When I worked in the libraries in Grays Harbor we often featured Judy and her husband Curtis as Native Storytellers, members of the Chehalis tribe. Judy’s storytelling skills were truly magical.

We hosted the DuPuis for several of our family campfire nights and I was thinking of one especially out at Stewart Park which has a little stream running through it. Judy told a story about the salmon and rivers and hunger and gratitude. I have described it here as best I recall. Even people just using the park and not realizing there was a library event were draw to her words.

I am so honored to have my poem included in this brilliant book. Copies are available from Empty Bowl Press and at local bookstores. Many readings are planned throughout Washington state during the coming months.




Poem in the Winter Online Issue of Juniper

My poem “Bee’s Tongue” written recently from a Hospice nursing memory is up on the beautiful online magazine Juniper: Http://Juniperpoetry.com. It is a Canadian publication edited by the amazing Lisa Young. Please go to the website to see the lovely foxglove illustration and accompanies my poem and to read the other beautiful and touching work.

Bee’s Tongue

I walked a hallway twice a week

those months of autumn. And each time,

I passed the framed photo of a honeybee

on the lip of a foxglove

her long filament of seldom seen tongue

thinner than thread, curved

like the frond of an early spring fern.

And each visit, someone

pointed it out as if we both saw it,

that blurry vision, for the first time

distraction from what waited

in the hospice room ahead.

I once asked a friend, a botanist,

how to locate the heart of a flower,

focus of life force, antiphon

of time. Anatomy of beauty

not hers to explain. And once I felt

the pulse within a fir, my hand

flat against its rough, vibrating bark.

I put my fingers to my own wrist

to assure a different tempo,

the tree much slower in its somber knell.

And maybe this encounter proved

that the low vegetable thrum

is everywhere, undetected except

by the tongue of a bee, in the hall

that is prelude to silence.




“The Beads of War” in Vita Poetica

When a world event as powerful as the invasion of Ukraine by Russia occurs, it seems important to respond. One of the first things this terrible act called to mind for me was the Cold War terror I had experienced as a child in the 1950s. And the Cold War’s symbol for me was the Rosary, a chain of prayer beads we used to pray, especially for peace. My family knelt and spoke those beads every night in those mid-50s years. The other thing I remembered was the refugee Hungarian family our parish sponsored after Russia marched into Hungary. One of their children, Judith, was in my class at school. She sat beside me and I helped her learn English. We also prayed the rosary together. This poem is one way I have made Ukraine personal:

The Beads of War

by Joanne M. Clarkson

I was raised on the rosary, fear
a design of prayer, one Our Father,
ten Hail Marys, given to children.
To Judith, child of Hungarian
refugees adopted by our parish 
in 1957. She and I kneeling
on the schoolroom floor, 
praying against the threat of skies 
exploding. Russia the known devil. 
I taught her my words. 
We worked numbers together. 
Her rosary with its creamy white beads 
was made of milkweed, field flower 
used to bring back butterflies. 
She showed me a little curved scar 
at the base of her thumb.
Last night I dreamed of Judith, 
ghost within the terror of Ukraine. 
Two old women lost to each other
fingering the sacred beads of war.




My Writing in We’Moon 2023

I am so pleased and grateful to say that I have 4 pieces in the 2023 edition of the We’Moon desk calendar. The theme is ‘Silver Lining,’ and the art is exquisite! My writings include “Canoe” for the week of March 4, “Clay and Silver” for the week of June 6, “The Art of Satin” for the week of August 19 and “Portals” for the week of September 18. I have read this publication for almost 20 years and have had work in it for the past 10. This very useful book includes horoscopes, phases of the moon, endless inspiration and more. It is available at Phoenix Rising metaphysical bookstore in Port Townsend, at Radiance in Olympia and many more locations as well. A great gift to give yourself and your besties for the Holidays and New Year.




Poem about ‘loss’ in pacificREVIEW 2022

Last spring I read a news article about how the Shriners’ organization had donated Barbie dolls with prosthetic legs to girls who also had artificial limbs. This caused me to wonder how I would feel if I was a little girl and received such a gift. I wrote a poem about it, incorporating the fairytale about the tin soldier without a leg who fell in love with a ballerina whom he mistakenly thought was also missing a leg. I needed to write the poem and I wondered if it would find a home in print since the subject matter was unusual. When I saw that pacificREVIEW, the literary magazine at San Diego State University, was asking for writing on the theme of ‘loss’ I sent this and several other poems. They accepted “The Left Leg” and it just appeared in their annual print edition. The cover reads: “Atlantis and other lost places” and the material included does indeed cover a wide range of losses, many dealing with some aspect of death. As a child I loved my dolls; they enacted many life scenarios for me. I think my poems do this now.




Poem in Two Hawks Quarterly

My poem “The Abandoned Well” is in the online spring 2022 edition of Two Hawks Quarterly,


This is a poem I wrote during a Tarot card meditation, different from what I usually write. I really loved the other poems included. What an interesting journal. It is fun to write from a vision rather than from an experience or memory.




Poem in “Calyx”

My poem “For Good” is included in the beautiful Winter/Spring 2022 issue of Calyx A Journal of Art and Literature by Women. In this poem, I explore one of my faults that annoys me the most – saving our best things and not using them. My grandmother Esther is included here. She continues to inspire me in spirit often. Many thanks to editor Brenna Crotty and to all the other poets, writers and artists for sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings in the most evocative and original ways.




Two Poems in Mom Egg Review

Volume 20 of the Mom Egg Review is centered around the theme of ‘Mother Figures.’ Two of my poems are included. One is entitled “Night Nurse” and is about those who care for others in the quiet hours and how these nurses, female or male/old or young – become the comfort the sick and dying need. The other poem is titled “Mokosh” and describes my maiden name Slavic goddess that I often write about. I love Mokosh because she is an earthy girl without temples or specific worship who comes to help with daily matters. Her symbol is a breast shaped stone and her feast day is any Friday.

It is especially wonderful to have my work included in this issue since 3 other poets that I know well and respect greatly are also here: Libby Maxey, Susan Rich and Francesca Bell. Thank you, Mom Egg Editors and staff!