Paula Bonnell


Five poems from Abracadabra may be read through this page.

The fourth -- first published in the Canadian literary magazine The Fiddlehead, Copyright Paula Bonnell 1981, 2011, 2018 -- is this:


More distant than cousins
at many removes, their connection
more attenuated than telephone wires,
they are yet closer than
kissing cousins,
close as flame to moth,
held by the broken blacks
of ink laid down
in letter shapes.
Like Venn circles
they overlap,
exactly at the words.

And"Plain Speech" was first published in Southern Poetry Review.

Plain Speech

There are two great things: in the day, work;
in the night, heartbeats. Against these is the grave.
Not the sensory qualities of its earth lining,
but the isolation of the hole itself, the non-place.
In the day, love is as unseen as the sun;
it simply illumines with a general light.
In the dark, like the stars, it draws attention as it becomes particular.
Work is as unnoticed in the night as sleep;
the shadows which made the day's forms distinct
have come to a fullness, one that love rides.
The earth turns as imperceptibly as the sonnet
used to do; it's come about now.
Mouths touch and separate, feet feel the floor.
From the center, gravity holds everything down.

Copyright Paula Bonnell 1982, 1984, 1985, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2018. All rights reserved.

"Plain Speech" subsequently appeared in the ANTHOLOGY OF MAGAZINE VERSE &

Yearbook of American Poetry (1984 edition) and in The Sunday Boston Herald's April 2001

National Poetry Month feature. It also won a Cambridge Poetry Festival award.

Selected Works

In a handsome perfect-bound format, tales retold is poems giving new takes on stories from myth, fables, folk & fairy tales, even 20th-century news. Principal and minor characters offer their perspectives on what's happening.

"The life of the mind begins here."

-- Megan Marshall

author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism

"The intelligent child [Bonnell] conjures up has a mind as supple and lively as these ecstatic, wry poems."

-- Miriam Levine

author of The Dark Opens and Devotion, a memoir

"The words a story in poems on the title page of Paula Bonnell's Before the Alphabet made me rejoice for narrative in contemporary poetry. Like all stories, these poems reveal a deeper story beneath the surface. I value this work greatly."

-- Nick Samaras

author of Hands of the Saddlemaker and American Psalm, World Psalm

poetry books
The world as peaceable kingdom is interrupted by wars and rumors of wars.
Lyric and narrative poems, including "Eurydice," a re-telling of the myth
poetry collection manuscript
This as-yet unpublished collection was a finalist in the National Poetry Series. "Plain Speech" and "Scenic Postcard" -- both reachable through the Quick Links below -- are from Abracadabra.

Quick Links - to PB poems on the web & how to buy Before the Alphabet