Nancy Naomi Carlson

Nancy Naomi Carlson is the author of two award-winning chapbooks (Tennessee Chapbook Prize and Texas Review Press’ Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize), a full-length poetry collection (Washington Writers’ Publishing House competition), and Stone Lyre, a collection of René Char translations, published by Tupelo Press. A recipient of grants from the Maryland State Arts Commission and the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, she is an instructor at the Bethesda Writer’s Center, as well as an associate editor for Tupelo Press.  Her work has appeared in over 225 literary magazines, including Agni, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and Denver Quarterly, and is forthcoming in The Georgia Review. “Ant Hills” was unearthed after visiting a counseling colleague at a renovated public school. During their conversation, a tiny ant walked across her desk. Explaining that the school had the misfortune of having been built on a huge ant hill, her colleague smushed it.


If You Build It

She built a sunroom to wall in honeyed light,
but by nightfall, not a drop was spared.

Patience, she prayed, though to no
particular deity—room drained, even of moon.

The smell of new paint made it hard to breathe.
She had put her faith into star-crossed words—

cadmium lemon, corn silk, goldenrod pale—
and the hubris of human floors,

when a simple sound would do, as a song
without words—Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise

instinct in the flowering oo’s
or a river’s lap and purl surrounding a basket

woven from twigs, baby asleep,
hidden from sight but buoyed by a pattern of reeds.


Ant Hills

Build your house on an ant hill if you’re tired of living alone. Even if windows are sealed and a blanket wedged in the space beneath your bedroom door, they will find a way in. Let them come. They can help you get past a season of cold, or show you how purpose gives form to the day. They can teach you the language of trees. Bred to bear twenty to fifty times their collective body weight, they can carry away your fears, one by one, to the deepest reach of the ground, or bring you small crystals of garnets unearthed from below—fire-eyed.

15 thoughts on “Nancy Naomi Carlson”

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  2. Love these, especially “Ant Hills”!! But why not use line breaks? Just a question I’m always pondering when I read prose poems.

  3. I especially love “Ant Hills.” You have done them justice. I will take your advice to heart and if I can’t build my house on an ant hill, I can at least move atop a virtual one. Thank you for a wonderful poem!

  4. Good post! Anyone else having trouble seeing the right side? Could be my slow mo computer though!?

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    1. But we do! It is on the Subscription Page. maybe I should change it to donate? Anyway, it is here. We are trying to get at least 2000.00 by end of next year, may even do a Kickstarter because we hope to put forth a best of print edition and any extra money will go to our Charities. You can see more about the charities we support here

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  7. I enjoyed reading both of these from a very gifted, talented writer. These are the kinds of poems that I love. They present simply but unravel quite beautifully complex to yield so much rhythm, artfully enticing and guiding the reader through every line. “Ant Hills,” it’s the kind of poem that stops time and makes me think.

  8. Beautiful!!
    “…they can carry away your fears, one by one, to the deepest reach of the ground, or bring you small crystals of garnets unearthed from below—fire-eyed.”

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