My Personal Favorite: Karen Holman

Karen Holman blog post Kelly Fordon
Karen Holman

At this moment in time which of your own poems is your personal favorite, and why?

The Sound of Glass

Spring peepers chirp at the scalloped

                  edge of floating 

                                    like new dandelions 

predicting their futures.

                  Shrieking nails

                                    —redwings call—

cueing each other 

                  to wrench apart the woods. 

The entire ocean hums in a congregate voice

                  at dawn and dusk migrations

                                    and damselfish search the reefs

calling the names of their mates.

                  Nearing sixty, long into autumn 

but past the winters, I think, 

                                    my entire span and degree

has been a dawn chorus 

                  to you, dear Day,

                                                Your diamonding—

See the poem online here at Interim.

This has been my favorite poem for a long time because writing it changed me. It began with a lonely walk in through a marsh on a gray early spring day near Holland, Michigan where I had taken a trip to hear an old friend and mentor, Marvin Bell, read. It was a dark time in my life, I had been slogging through a depression that had lasted many years and I no longer wanted to keep living. I felt like I had no future. But my heart lifted as I listened to the redwing blackbirds calling to each other and I noticed the calls rising through the air the way fireflies rise into the trees in summer dusk. That was the image that arrested me, although it didn’t make it into later drafts of the poem.

I worked on the poem for several years while my depression began to lift. I realized that I would only be able to get survive the rest of my life if I befriended myself.

And finally, a summer brought joy, the dawn chorus rose around me mornings, it was day until 10 p.m., crickets sang and my garden bloomed. I felt my mortality approaching and was grappling with dreams that would never be realized. I knew the possibilities for my life were narrowing.

Yet, all that light. Light in nuance and dazzle that has been my joy since childhood: on water flitting like moths, the kaleidoscope blaze from one drop of dew, sunlight on the wall, the flash of a hummingbird’s throat, the full moon on snow, the beach glass of a hard frost . . . 

I read that even sea creatures sing a dawn chorus. The ocean hums as its creatures migrate from the deeps at night to the bright surface of day. While I was writing about it, I realized that my life is like that. My work, my voice, is just another in the panoply of living. That the length of my life is like a morning, and I have spent it singing.


Karen Holman lives with her husband and two cats in Ypsilanti, MI where she works on a community mental health crisis team. She’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and serves on the editorial staff of december magazine. Her chapbook, “Welcoming in the Starry Night of the Lightning Bees,” features in New Poets, Short Books, vol. IV published by Lost Horse Press. Her poetry has aired on NPR, been honored with several Pushcart nominations and frames composer David Evan Thomas’ oratorio, The First Apostle.Her fiction, hybrids, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in Salamander, Puerto del Sol, RHINO, POOL, december magazine, Gargoyle, Sentence, 2 BridgesReview, Water Stone Review, decomP magazinE, flashquake, Quarter After Eight, Berkeley Poetry Review, Oxidant Engine, JuxtaProse, Portland Review, Threadcount, Interim, andUU World among othersHer work was performed by Pencilpoint Theatreworks in Fight Like a Girl.