Image courtesy of Major Jackson

Suggested Reading List for April Poetry Month

We might not all be powerful, but we all have a voice. Poetry is the river our voices ride and like water takes many shapes; gentle, loving, probing, raging, meandering, dry, gushing. Varied are the…

We might not all be powerful, but we all have a voice. Poetry is the river our voices ride and like water takes many shapes; gentle, loving, probing, raging, meandering, dry, gushing. Varied are the voices that carry us. These are the voices which carried me this past year.


The Absurd Man Poems by Major Jackson

Late one evening in January, I had the distinct pleasure of spending an hour and a half with Major Jackson via a Zoom classroom through an online course at The Writers Studio in NYC. He is one cool dude, and I don’t think he’d mind the description. In this collection, Jackson “savors the complexity between perception and reality, body and desire, accountability and judgement.” 

Two poems from the volume that spoke to me were “Major and I” and “Double Major.” Our class explored the technique used in “Major and I” in which he employed a first-person narrator to describe the self usually kept hidden. If anyone would like to read the poem I wrote for my exercise, please scroll down.

Every Shut Eye Ain’t Asleep: An Anthology of Poetry by African Americans Since 1945

I simply cannot express how eye opening, insightful and moving this anthology was for me at a time when racial injustice has come to the fore (again). I found myself saddened to know that many of these pioneering voices including Robert Hayden, Gwendolyn Brooks and Sonia Sanchez are just as relevant and necessary today. I was transported, and I fell in love with each of these poets as I wove in and out of each narrative, each story, each life. 

Failure by Philip Schultz

Can it be that this book was published 14 years ago? I feel like it was just yesterday Philip signed a treasured copy to me after a Writers Studio reading in NYC in May of 2007. Shultz is dyslexic, the founder of the Writers Studio and the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize. Generous by nature, he signed: “To Denise, wish you warm wishes and success for your own words” – PS

I am enamored of the deceptively simple manner in which Philip Schultz writes of everyday stuff. One of my favorite poems from the volume appears on page 17 simply titled, “My Dog.”

Denise Stoughton – Major Jackson Exercise, Major and I. Use a first-person narrator to describe the self usually kept hidden.

Denise and I

wake up in the same body but 

the other Denise prefers to 

luxuriate in bed; she is a fan of 

caresses from ardent lovers 

and crepe de chine whose

silky machinations provide

the grist for her gist which is

to say they meet her requirement

for elevated living and by their 

sinuating touch she is anointed

more special for the feel of it.

Which is to say she has wholly

rejected the practical approach

to living that keeps me

up at night.

I let Denise awaken to sun-kissed

mornings and cop daydreams while

I toil in the boiler room of our breast 

wild with the worry of ruinous columns 

that don’t add up. They never do. 

I prefer meat and potatoes and 

employing these hands to work. 

I stock up on non-perishables 

and recycled feelings. I envelope

myself – return to sender. I am a single

page of straightforward text.

Denise is exquisite in her need

for men and women alike to

become blossoming oysters on 

her shimmering shores, yearning 

to be pried open by the alluring tide 

of her charm, the water-splash 

tingle of her laugher 

coaxes them open and 

their ruffled shells yield to the 

competent articulation of her probing 

fingers, she is a siren of sea and land.

I shoulder the weight

of the continents we carry,

the unrelenting memory

of airless rooms, broken toys 

and unloved dolls, I pay 

homage to Gods of all things 

ordered and reliable and 

tangible and of this world, this world.

I work double time paving

gold pathways beneath her feet as she

skips and pirouettes to bell tunes. 

Might that I be crushed but

Denise pulls her weight

getting us out of speeding tickets, 

we often feast for days on the booty 

of her oceanic treasures, I delight 

in pearly strands of  her friends 

and lovers (true) and vignettes 

of her vanity (not true). 

She boldly walks among 

beds of emeralds and onyx 

beneath crystalline skies

carefree and free 

soaking up the elements 

that wash away her loneliness

and quench the thirst for

a love not known to us.


Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night (…but mostly snow)

History, Community and Art Converge at Pleasant Beach Village

Finding Bainbridge

New Sculptures in Familiar Places: Public Art Installations on Bainbridge Island

Green Light Garage: The Motherboard

Denise’s Favorite Virtual Gallery Tour: The National Cowboy Western & Heritage Museum

ABOUT DENISE STOUGHTON INSPIRED by globe-trotting, day tripping, found objects and high fashion, Denise has been designing home decor for two decades. Originally from the island of Manhattan, she traded concrete and glass skyscrapers for skyscrapers of the deciduous and coniferous variety and now lives happily on Bainbridge Island with her Chihuahua, Tula. Interior Design has and always will be her first love. She studied (and later, taught) at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. Denise writes a blog for Mercury Michael and is also a member of AHB’s Public Art Committee – placing public art in public spaces.