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From the Editor’s Desk
  Kate Bernadette Benedict

Gala Alert: Umbrella’s First Anniversary

Your editor has had a full and rewarding year, so much so that it’s hard not to sound like a guest on Oprah, waving her gratitude diary around with a beatific smile. Nevertheless, on this Tuesday before Thanksgiving, let me say … thank you, Rachel Dacus, Carol A. Taylor and Peter Bloxsom for your wonderful assistance; thank you, authors, for trusting me with your finest works; thank you, readers, for your exponentially increasing numbers of visits. Umbrella receives about 14,000 unique visits each quarter, so even when you factor in the “drive by’s” and the “guidelines-only” readers, the numbers are impressive. So welcome to Umbrella’s first-anniversary cyber-gala issue, containing a selection of marvelous poems and prose and two special features.

Health Care Provider Reports


We whoosh open our second year with an Umbrella Invitational. Poets who published with us during our first year, Winter 2006 through Fall 2007, and a few select others, were invited to send in a poem representing a turning point in their writing, with a prose explanation of how and why that one poem made a difference in technique, outlook, poetic philosophy or career. Some sent poems that represent almost a conversion experience; others look back and report that the poem opened a creative door or gave renewed hope.

This call for Milestone poems was so successful that, for the sake of digestibility (and eyesight), we will be spreading the feature over two issues. So look for more Milestones in Umbrella’s spring edition, online March first. And first-year authors, if you did not receive an invitation to participate, it was just an oversight. Feel free to send in your Milestone contribution now.

Cold Poems

Our second special gala feature is a collection of “cold poems,” poems of snow and chill and winter. A virtual blizzard of cold poems came to Umbrella’s in box! In these poems you’ll find the different names for snow: the season’s first flurries, the nostalgic snow angels of childhood, the fresh snow that casts a glitter over everything, dirty snow, snow that avalanches off the roof, a cold spring snow.  You’ll find the different names for cold places: St. Paul, Helsinki, Indiana, Oregon, Alaska, Detroit, anywhere in ski country.

In winter, the flesh is heir to shocks from static electricity. There’s wood to be split. There are flies hatching out of season; horses, real or imaginary, to saddle and ride. There is ice: ice storms, ice on the windshield, poems, as one contributor (Susan Roney O’Brien) put it, that have “ice at their hearts.” Such poems tell of death, of the deep chill of a dysfunctional family, of icy snowballs thrown not in play but in hate. Brrrr … in the northern latitudes, it’s time for winter. So fix some cocoa, get under a cozy throw, and come over to “Winter Takes the Mind,” an Umbrella extra.   But first, here’s a preview in the form of a cento containing one line from each cold poem.

A Little Cold Poem Cento

Titled: The Birth of Winter—
the ice thick on the sidewalks,
white clods in the weeds behind our apartment,
end-of-the world white,
a cold that could nail bones. We are down

in the warm sites, in the kitten-heap of family.
The sounds the wind makes
howling in the city of ice
storm: the wither-wind that aims to unhorse
bobsleighs and stiff
a windswept park of pine and birch!

Come here, child, come here.
Recite the cycles of thaw and freeze,
each electric nip at the door.
(If all they’ve told him in school was true, there was no reason for God—
a white-haired man on horseback watching us—
to carry off the snow.)

The cold, the hard-assed cold.
We’ve a long dull winter ahead,
each tree’s whiteness needling its space.
The skies whiten in winter and all is lost.


For this (and perhaps all future) editions, we feature poetry and prose under one “umbrella”: Orsorum, a nice Latin word you can look up in your Funkus and Wagnallus. This will lead to less “back and forthing” as you read and a simpler, clearer arrangement of contents, especially when we offer the “extras” and “invitationals.”

Call for Submissions

For Spring 2008 (online March 1), poems and prose on general topics are welcome, and also poems for a planned special section on religious/spiritual poetry. Many of the classic poems of English and other literatures have been deeply informed by the religious impulse, and such poems continue to be written. The best of these poems eschew certainty and sentiment, having more to do with spiritual yearning or the vacillations of faith or the zen moment. Frankly, I have a “sin of fear” (as John Donne would have put it) of finding little more than treacle in my submission box. Surprise me. Send me strong tea, send me poems of depth, ecstasy, anguish. And send me poems written from any religious tradition at all, monotheistic, pantheistic, nontheistic! As with all Umbrella extras, previously published work will be considered though fresh work is strongly desired. And please remember that general poems are just as welcome as themed work. Deadline: February 9th.

This Issue’s Art

This issue’s striking cover images are by Tim Holte, who lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he photographs the world around him for what he terms “mostly therapeutic reasons.” You may view more of his work at photo.net .

’Tis the Season

This issue hits the cyberwaves at the start of the traditional season for giving. If you’ve been enjoying Umbrella, this would be a wonderful time to consider making a small contribution. I had hoped at least to recoup the start-up costs (around $1000) but so far only $5 has been contributed by one reader. A little money has come in via ad revenue but 80% of startup costs remain unmet. Your editor well understands that you may be either strapped for cash or drawn to more important causes. But, if you’re feeling flush, making a donation is as easy as pressing the following Paypal link, where both Paypal funds or credit cards may be used.

Personal Notes

Your Winter Umbrella has been put together under somewhat beseiged circumstances. Gut renovations are taking place in the two apartments above my own; noise and vibrations have cracked my walls and rattled my brainpan. On a couple of occasions, sandy debris has rained into my hallway; a band of Chinese workmen came down and hoovered it up cheerfully with a vac resembling a small cement mixer. Meanwhile, Oscar, left, sleeps blissfully through it all.

At least I got away with the spousal unit for a few days, cruching fall leaves and taking scenic drives. The picture at the top is a snap from our pleasant jaunt.

Regarding the personal side of this issue’s special features: Though my previous call for work poems and my current call for religious poetry grow out of my own practice, the cold is not something I’ve written much about. Perhaps I will have to. It gets pretty darn cold in New York City in the winter, and my childhood home in the Bronx was not even insulated. O those freezing mornings! I do have one snow poem and it is readable at Verse Daily. The Milestones theme was dear to me; over the years, I have spent much mental time contemplating how one particular poem, “Hera’s Habit,” changed the direction of my writing. I will include it on my home page in the month of December.

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